Deconstruction of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

It’s funny how something can be lionized even after falling dormant. You could mount a pretty easy argument how the city screwed up Memorial Auditorium after the Arena was built. It and the surrounding land has sat there for 12 years doing nothing, just another abandoned property not generating anything, not unlike our city leaders. The Artvoice article about how Montreal smartly reused their Forum was never far from my mind, especially since I wonder about how real the Bass Pro shenanigans really are. But the sale of the Aud insides and the removal of the property sparked romantic notions. You remember and dream in “living color”. The place was a dump on its best of days. The long darkened ramps introduced you to your neighbor rather closely whether you wanted you to or not, especially during the intimate exits after events. The steps leading down to the seats into the oranges were vertigo inducing and the hand rails were a metal fabricator’s practical joke. Aud club food was sort of on the vile side but you liked it anyway because of the private clubhouse feel. 

I was walking downtown the other night and saw the gaping hole where the desconstruction had opened the building. Like I said, the structure was nothing special, but what it could contain was sometimes amazing: bunches of Sabres games, a few Braves games (as I am old), seeing Bob Seger, Rush, The Kinks, the Who, U2, Springsteen and many other legends for the first time. The acoustics were usually pretty awful, but hey, when your heroes are right in front of you sound quality is not always omnipresent. Okay, so I was curious to go back and have a look. I didn’t want a seat from the place or anything (what can you do with a chair coated in 13 years of yuck), but seeing the joint fall back into itself for the Bass Pro store that is never going to come was a curiousity I couldn’t resist. I took a stroll tonight to look into the abyss and could see into where my Dad and I walked under the rink one night by taking the wrong turn after a playoff game or the night I was part of the post game press corps with Ch.2 (where I covered up my college radio logo from Scotty Bowman’s prying eyes with the Ch. 2 mic flag ( for a little guy, he scared the crap out of me)) to hearing my mom (my Mom?) wish a particularly offensive member of the Philadelphia Flyers a colorful good evening. I was only there for a few minutes tonight, but there was a steady stream of lookers and quasi-photographers like myself

My little sister’s first contact high, skipping the Senior prom with a van load of friends to see Eric Clapton, having Gil Perreault sign my jersey, getting a seat in the press box for part of a hockey game, having some classmates eye me a little more highly after exchanging a quick hello with Ed Kilgore were just a few instances that I can recall in crystal clear detail. This isn’t a knock on the Arena by any means. Hell, I just got to a Suite for the first time a few weeks ago and living wealthy is great fun. I admire a hostess who took pains to show me where the Molson Canadian was. I guess it is like remembering the good quality of your first car. You’d never buy it now, you probably should have thought twice about it then, but it had its moments. I don’t remember Monday’s dinner, but I still can see the black and white monitors the folks in the blues needed to see the scoreboard. 

When the place was full and the asbestos was hiding quietly in the ceiling, it really didn’t look much better or dramatically different, but what could happen inside fueled the imagination. During particularly good Sabres games or raucus E Street Band shows, the feeling is the place was palpable. There was a feeling in the beginnings of a French Connection power play or Clarence Clemons sax solo that you could feel in your chest. Like I said the place wasn’t attractive, but it was unique. That is the beauty of old joints like that, the shared experience.  I can still remember the peanut vendor/huckster who worked the events. He would sit outside and bark “Before you go in the door! Stop at the Peanut Store!!

It was a dump, but it was our dump.

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