Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in June 2017 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Debate Over the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center Surges On

Local officials deciding whether to renovate or scrap the venue

June 14, 2018 - 5:37 am

BUFFALO (WBEN) - A new report gives the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center poor grades in drawing tourism to the area, and it has once again started the debate on what exactly to do with it moving forward.

It really comes down to one simple investment question. 

Should the county renovate the convention center? Or should leaders focus on starting over with a new one?

The answer is certainly more difficult than the question, as tax payers have already funded several feasibility studies amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This conversation was really spurred eight years ago when then County Executive Chris Collins led a $7 million upgrade project.

Now, there's even more criticism given the new information found in report commissioned by Visit Buffalo Niagara, that says the current convention center is hurting tourism.

The big knock?

The size and design of the 40-year-old building, which struggles to hold sporting events and more than one event at a given time.

Channel 4 caught up with Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, who says, "It's a dump, it needs to go and we shouldn't spend another dime putting lipstick on a pig."

And while that may be true, there is still that little issue of the bottom line. Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo sees a difficult road ahead if the plan is to build a completely new venue, and he spoke with Channel 2.

"I think the real missing piece is money," he said. "Building a new convention center is not going to come cheap, and it's not going to be easy..."

Lorigo continued, "We're a mid-sized city, so we would be going for the mid-sized conventions, and according to what I've been told, other cities are doing better at attracting those types of conventions because they have better, newer, larger facilities."

Several months ago, County Executive Mark Poloncarz proposed an additional $65,000 to expand the study and look for possible sites. A spokesperson from Poloncarz's office told Channel 2 says the current convention center is too small.

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