May 9


Arena project with relevance to Sabres

Home of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, three years newer than Buffalo's downtown arena, is slated for $200 million in upgrades and ancillary development

An NHL arena that opened three years after Buffalo’s KeyBank Center is now in line for a facelift that could cost over $200 million. 

Members of the public authority that oversees PNC Arena – the suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, venue that has hosted the Carolina Hurricanes since 1999 – last week agreed to pursue renovations inside the facility and explore options for developing the area around it. 

Before Covid struck, the authority had a plan to use revenue from a tourism tax to pay for upgrades estimated in 2019 to cost as much as $200 million. At the time, the study anticipated the work would be paid for with taxes on hotels, food and beverages.

Officials anticipate that inflation and construction costs will now drive the cost higher. 

The authority’s decision to proceed with renovations came just three days after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman described PNC Arena as being “no longer up to modern NHL standards.”  

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While he agreed last year to extend his team’s lease at PNC Arena through 2029, Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon has said that he wants the area outside the facility to be developed into the “hub of a new commercial district with offices and residences and restaurants and a sports book.” 

The PNC Arena authority agreed to hire the consultant CAA ICON to update cost estimates and develop a master plan for inside and outside the venue. 

Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the company that oversees operations of the Sabres and the Buffalo Bills, hired CAA ICON in 2018 to assess options for a new Bills stadium and renovations to KeyBank Center. CAA ICON worked with another consultant, Populous, to produce a 2019 study that examined potential sites for a new football stadium and outlined ideas for improving the downtown hockey arena. 

The study was released in December 2021 along with other documents tied to the Bills stadium project following the filing of a lawsuit by Investigative Post

On the arena side, the study broke improvements into two categories: “functional” and “aspirational.” Functional ideas included new video boards, a new sound system, seat replacements and addressing congestion on the 300 level and suite corridors. Under aspirational improvements, the consultants suggested enclosing the arena’s outdoor plaza to promote more year-round use and creating more of a “wow factor” to help make the arena “great again.” 

The study did not include any cost estimates.

At the time the documents were made available, Pegula Sports and Entertainment Executive Vice President Ron Raccuia dismissed talk about improving the hockey arena, telling the Buffalo News his organization’s sole focus remained on the Bills and the stadium. 

“Once we find a solution for that, then we’ll move onto the next project,” he said. 

With the plan for a $1.4 billion Bills stadium in Orchard Park being finalized, the “next project” for Pegula Sports and Entertainment seems likely to be KeyBank Center, which will turn 26 years old in September. The Sabres’ lease expires in 2025.

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