Monday, May 3, 2010

HSBC Arena, Buffalo NY

Basic Information
Team: Buffalo Bandits (National Lacrosse League)
Game: Bandits vs Boston Blazers-4/24/201
Ticket Information: (888)467-2273 or www.bandits.com
Tourism Information: (800) BUFFALO or www.visitbuffaloniagara.com
Online Broadcasts: www.nll.com
Local Newspaper: The Buffalo News www.buffalonews.com

Team History-The Buffalo Bandits have been one of the most successful teams in the history ofthe National Lacrosse League (previously known as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League), A member of the league since 1992, the Bandits have been one of the sports top drawing clubs, averaging over twelve thousand per game in twelve of their nineteen seasons, including this season, where they averaged better than sixteen thousand at the HSBC Arena. They have won their league championship on four occasions, and have made it to the final game on three other occasions.

How About That Name (And Some History): The HSBC Arena was opened in September 1996, replacing the venerable Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, which were located jusr several hundred yards apart. The new building, which is also the home of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, was originally known as the Crossroads Arena while under construction, but was named the Marine Midland Arena prior to it's grand opening. In 1999, HSBC Bank, which owned Marine Midland, changed the name of the building to reflect the name of the parent bank. Previously, the HSBC Arena was the home of the Buffalo Blizzard indoor soccer team, the Buffalo Destroyers indoor football team, as well as having hosted several major college basketball tournaments.

Getting There: From the New York Thruway (I-90)-Exit at I-190 west towards downtown Buffalo. Take I-190 to Seneca St (exit 6). At the bottom of the exit, bear left. Make a right onto Seneca St. Follow Seneca St to Michigan St. Make a right onto Michigan St, then follow to parking and arena.

Nearest Airport: Buffalo-Niagara International Airport is approximately fifteen minutes north of the HSBC Arena.

Where To Go Before The Game: While most people might think that Niagara Falls is the place to spend the day while in Buffalo, the "Nickel City" has much more to attract the visitor. Just adjacent to the HSBC Arena is the Buffalo Naval Park, which is the home of the guided missile cruiser USS Little Rock, the destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker. All three of these retired vessels served in World War II and after, and are fine examples of living history. The USS The Sullivans was named after five brothers who all served together on the USS Juneau in the Pacific during the early days of World War II. The five brothers all perished, allong with 700 of their shipmates when the Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo during the the Battle of Guadacanal. The Little Rock was commissioned in in 1944, and served in World War II, Korea, and was a part of the US Navy's Mediterranian Fleet until being decomissioned in 1976. The Croaker served proudly from the end of World War II until it was "mothballed" in 1968.

All three ships berthed at the Naval Park are open for a self-guided tour. For more information, visit http://www.buffalonavalpark.org/ or call (716) 847-1773.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several choices here. If you want to grab something near the arena, the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery is a good bet. Located a short walk from the arena, they featured a pre-game package with an all-you-can eat buffet, two drinks (beer or soda), and a game ticket for a reasonable $29.00. Other choices include the legendary Anchor Bar, the original home of the Buffalo Wing, or Ted's Hot Dogs, a local favorite. The Anchor is located approxiately ten minutes from the HSBC Arena, and Ted's has several locations in the Buffalo area.

Where To Stay: Most major hotel chains have locations in and around the Buffalo area. We stayed for this trip at the Red Roof-Buffalo Airport, which is approximately 15-20 minute drive from the HSBC Arena.

Tickets: 2010 Bandits tickets were priced as follows: $33.00 (200 club level and 100 level preferred-sidelines), $25.00 (100 level corners), $23.00 (100 level ends and 300 level).

Parking: There are several lots within a five minute walk of the HSBC Arena. We parked at a lot on Michigan St for ten dollars which was a three minute walk to the main entrance.

The Good Seats: Having spent more than a little time in the HSBC Arena in the past, I really don't think there is a bad seat in the place. Even the 300 or upper level has good sight lines, but you are up HIGH! I used to joke with some of the soccer broadcasters that I worked with when the Blizzard played there that you were so high, you could smell the jet fuel from the planes flying overhead.

Getting In: The HSBC Arena has a large main concourse which serves as the main entrance, but also houses the boz office, and the entrance to the Sabres' team store. Once getting in, there are two sets of escalators which take fans to the seating level. This area has several concession stands, two small merchandise stands, and the Aud Club bar.

Arena Food: Instead of sampling the signature hot dog, I gave a try to the local pizza served at the building. It was rather good, hot and cheesy and with just a little bit of a spicy kick, and with a combo meal of two slices and a small Coke for $10.00, I thought it was a bargain.

Here is a sampling of the other standard food items and their costs:

Hot Dog: $3.75 Pretzel: $4.25 Popcorn: $7.00 Nachos: $5.50
Pizza Slice : $4.00 Regular Soda: $3.50 Candy: $3.50 Bottled Beer: $8.00

Soft Drinks: HSBC Arena pours Coca-Cola products.

Restrooms: As befitting an arena that seats over eighteen thousand, there are plenty of facilities around the concourse. All are clean and well stocked.

Mascot: Rax the Raccoon.

Game Program: $5.00

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The HSBC has one of the most impressive scoreboards I've seen. It features four large high definition screens, with round display screens above and below, which display game information. At the bottom of the scoreboard, there is a smaller display which features the logo of the arena and the Sabres which billows smoke after every home team goal.

The Bandits have the best PA announcer in the business in Chris "Swennie" Swenson. "Swennie" has been a fixture at Bandits games for many years, and is as much a part of the game as the players on the field. He knows how to rouse the crowd at the right points in the game with a loud "Buffalo Who?", and the crowd responding "BANDITS!" or when the Bandits' number nine scores, he will bellow out "Whos House?", and then the seventeen thousand in attendance yell back "Steen-huis!".

Game Staff: Plentiful, professional, and friendly.

Arena Features: In the second floor lobby, there is a large display with images and memorablilia from the long history of sports in Buffalo.

Atmosphere: Just amazing! The sellout crowd at the game I attended was going absolutely crazy from the minute the lights went out for the player introduction. The evening was kicked off by a bagpipe solo from David Moore. Moore marched in from the concourse, walked down the steps in the seating area, and came to a stop at the center circle with the crowd going completely ape. I wasn't exactly sure what the Scottish tattoo he played had anything to do with lacrosse, but I was told later that he has been a fixture at Bandits games since 2005.

The in-game music selection was just outstanding as well. More often than not, the crowd would join in and sing along to some of the selections, like Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer".

One of the best chants I have heard at the Bandits' game was the one that the crowd yelled when an opponent was headed for the sin bin-"B! O! X! B! O! X! In the Box! In the Box! In the BOX! BOX! BOX!

While the fans were rowdy, and some were fueled by Labatts Blue, everyone stayed under control, and it was safe for the families who attended.

Overall: I can sum it up in one sentence. If you like sports at all, you need to check out a Buffalo Bandits game.