The Pegula Story Nobody Wants to Talk About

Terry Pegula bought the Buffalo Sabres in January of 2011 for $189 million. There were reports that another bid was higher previously, but that buyer would have moved the Sabres out of Buffalo (report here). While the Sabres leaving Buffalo may not have been a real option, Pegula did save the Sabres franchise, and the surrounding community, in a way.

By keeping the Sabres in Buffalo, Pegula also kept the hockey team’s economic impact in the area. The table below is a breakdown from the State Comptroller’s office, estimating the annual impact the Sabres have on the Buffalo-Niagara region.

The Sabres positively affect our economy by $65 million per season plus another $2 million per home playoff game. Without them, the Buffalo-Niagara region would have only one major sports team, the Bills, lose $65 million from the local economy, and give us nothing to do in the winter. Luckily for us, Pegula stepped forward and is keeping the Sabres in Buffalo for the long haul.

Imagine an empty First Niagara Center. Just another shell of what once was in Buffalo, similar to empty warehouses and grain elevators throughout the region. It would further Buffalo’s stereotype; the city left behind.

But Pegula did buy the Sabres, and then he bought the Rochester Americans for another $5 million. Rochester then became the Sabres’ new AHL affiliate, giving the team increased marketability and interest. Pegula was starting Western New York’s identity overhaul. Dying rust belt no more, we were going to become a hotbed for everything hockey.

Pegula did more than just purchase the Sabres and Americans in 2011. He and his wife, Kim, donated a total of $114 million to the athletic departments of their alma maters. Penn State, whose hockey team was just promoted to Division I competition, received $102 million for a new hockey arena, the Pegula Ice Arena. Meanwhile, Houghton College received $12 million for a new sports facility, the Kerr-Pegula Athletic Complex. Pegula still wasn’t done.

The Sabres owner then won the bid for the the HARBORcenter development project, located across the street from the First Niagara Center. The total cost is currently projected to be $172 million, with $2.2 million going directly to the city of Buffalo for the land purchase.

The two ice rinks in the development will become home for the Junior Sabres hockey team, various tournaments, and maybe collegiate hockey team. These teams and events will be a hot bed for young talent, passionate fans, and the growing hockey tradition in Western New York. Current estimates call for about 500,000 people to visit HARBORcenter each year for hockey games and events, the hotel, the shopping, and the two-story restaurant.

If the same ratio of economic impact to people attending as Sabres games (average of 770,915 people per season) is applied to the HARBORcenter, the average economic impact would be around $42 million per year.

The Washington and Perry intersection should bring Buffalo more than $100 million per year. Think about that for a minute.

Terry Pegula’s net worth is estimated to be approximately $3 billion (according to Forbes). Since 2011, he has committed $480 million to the Western New York region (including Penn State). That total represents 16% of Pegula’s net worth being spent on us and our region, and the breakdown is depicted in the graph below.

The Sabres and HARBORcenter will generate an estimated total of $107 million in economic activity per year once the development is completed. Buffalo-Niagara’s GDP as of 2012 was 45.88 billion. That means Pegula’s investments will account for almost 0.25% of the region’s economic activity once HARBORcenter is completed. That’s a pretty big impact for a hockey owner. And if recent history is any indication, more is likely to come.

The attempts to make Buffalo “hockey heaven” have not yet been successful, but the movement isn’t done yet. The term doesn’t just apply to the Sabres, but to everyone who plays, watches, or enjoys hockey. It’s the region’s future identity, as envisioned by Terry Pegula, and we will proudly embrace it.

 

Joe

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