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Local

State Senator Ryan urges ECHDC to hold off on planned Outer Harbor concert venue

State Senator Ryan in Ralph Wilson Centennial (LaSalle) Park
Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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State Senator Sean Ryan spoke Friday in Buffalo, calling on the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to halt its plan for a concert venue in the Outer Harbor, explaining a similar and better venue in the plans for Centennial Park

State Senator Sean Ryan is urging the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to put its plans for an 8,000-seat concert space in the Outer Harbor on hold, saying a similar venue is part of the plans in nearby Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park.

Standing in the latter park Friday morning, Ryan noted that over the many years it was known as LaSalle Park, the waterfront park has hosted concerts by B.B. King, the Warped Tour, and continues to host annual events including the Hispanic Parade party and a Rick James tribute. Plans for the transformation of Wilson Centennial Park include a concert venue that could seat anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people. It would utilize a hill built for wintertime sledding as a slope to seat concert-goers.

The ECHDC, meanwhile, has a plan to build an entertainment venue in the Outer Harbor. Ryan says the two parks having a plan for a similar venue is just the latest example of local government agencies failing to communicate.

"It has often led to scarce resources being wasted on projects that clash or compete with one another. I fear that we're going down the same path again with Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation's plan for the Outer Harbor," Ryan said. "Development on the Outer Harbor has followed a specific plan. The plan has been to keep and preserve Buffalo's scenic waterfront, keeping it as green space for the public to enjoy."

A source within the ECHDC who replied to WBFO's request for comment explained that the Outer Harbor plan was put together following more than five years of "robust" stakeholder and public involvement, including individual meetings, work sessions, and public information workshops. The ECHDC forwarded a copy of the planning report, which features a summary of that public involvement. (On pages 38-41 of the report provided by ECHDC)

Ryan, however, suggests only about three percent of those who responded favored the Outer Harbor concert venue. He also pointed to the recent Thunder on the Buffalo Waterfront air show, held at Outer Harbor, which charged admission to access the Outer Harbor during that weekend, denying access to anyone else wanting to use the space for other purposes. He also suggests the air show demonstrated the difficulties moving traffic in and out of the Outer Harbor for larger events.

Plans for Centennial Park, he argues, include a pedestrian bridge spanning above Route 190, opening easier access to that park from the city.

“The Wilson Foundation and the Centennial Park people are actually responding to the public who said we want events held here at LaSalle Park. And the same public is saying we don't want them held at the Outer Harbor," he said. "We should avoid wasting prime waterfront space by building two competing concert venues.”