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Large crowd flocks to opening of Canalside ice canals

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Mike Desmond/wbfo news
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After politicians were finished with their speeches and former Buffalo Sabres did a symbolic face-off at what was the site of center ice in the old Memorial Auditorium, onlookers swarmed the new ice rink at Canalside Thursday night.

Some used the traditional ice skates. Others were on the new ice bikes. There was even one skater racing around on a hockey sledge.

The ice surface is the winter face of Canalside on the site of the old Memorial Auditorium, which in turn was the site of canals at the end of the Erie Canal. There is a marker on the vast ice sheet showing where center ice was in the Aud.

"I actually watched this place being built. I come on my lunch hour, taking a walk and watching it progress each day. It was kind of cool," said Peter Scharf who was on hand Thursday night with his family.
             
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation says the $20 million project has created an ice sheet far bigger than a regulation National Hockey League surface.  It's billed as the largest outdoor ice rink in New York State.

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Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
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Fireworks from Canalside.

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Credit WBFO News photo by Mike Desmond
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Skaters take to the new ice rinks at Canalside
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Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News
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Officials open the rink at Canalside

Thursday night's celebration included a spectacular fireworks display that kicked-off the opening of the new rinks. 

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Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown said the opening is "very exciting."

"This is a wonderful continuation of the progress in the city of Buffalo.  The opening of the ice at Canalside -- a $24 million ice rink -- open for the entire city and region," said Mayor Brown.

Robert Gioia, Chairman of the ECDHC, was there for the opening.

"We have ice, we have a year-round venue and an exciting time for Buffalo," said Gioia.  It was an investment by the state to really turn this into a year-round destination."

Gioia noted the opening is about respecting the city's past and embracing its future. 

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.