What it looked like Wednesday: Pilot Field, Marine Midland Arena and Rich Stadium

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

With new names appearing on two of Western New York’s three major sports facilities, BN Chronicles looks back at the umpteen names that have graced these venues since the mid-’90s when the ballpark and arena first opened.

The math: 28 years, 5 names (Buffalo News archives)

The math: 28 years, 5 names. (Buffalo News archives)

The downtown ballpark opened as Pilot Field in 1988. After Pilot Air Freight stopped making payments on the naming rights, it was billed simply as “The Downtown Ballpark” for part of the 1995 season, until it became North AmeriCare Park. In 1999, it was rechristened Dunn Tire Park, and in 2009, the signs were changed again to the current name, Coca-Cola Field.

The math: 20 years, 4 names (Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories photo)

The math: 20 years, 4 names. (Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories photo)

As it was being built, the structure that was replacing Memorial Auditorium was known as “The Crossroads Arena.” Before it opened, Marine Midland Bank bought the naming rights. Marine Midland Arena remained the name until 1999, when the bank was bought out by HSBC. HSBC Arena became First Niagara Center in 2011 when First Niagara bought out most of Buffalo’s HSBC branches. KeyBank is in the process of acquiring First Niagara right now, and the signage at the arena has begun to reflect that.

The math: 43 years, 4 names (Buffalo News archives)

The math: 43 years, 4 names. (Buffalo News archives)

Rich Products bought the naming rights to the Orchard Park home of the Bills in 1973 for $1.5 million. The rights weren’t renewed when the agreement expired in 1998. For part of that year’s football season, national and local media referred to the building as Bills Stadium. As a new lease was signed for the stadium in December 1998, Governor George Pataki persuaded Bills owner Ralph Wilson to allow the stadium to be named in the team owner’s honor.  It was announced this past weekend that New Era has purchased the stadium naming rights, and New Era Field will be the home of the Bills for seasons to come.

The Butcher and Preservation

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I was saddened to hear of the death of Donald Palmer, forever etched in Buffalo’s memory as “The Butcher.” He will remain forever one of Buffalo’s sports and pop culture icons. Rest in Peace. -Steve Cichon 11/22/16

BUFFALO, NY – I love preservation and giving current context to Buffalo’s old stuff. My attic is a testament to my single handed efforts at saving our city’s past.

Sometimes, though, I’m frustrated that we don’t celebrate things as a city until they are moments from the wrecking ball.

The Bisons have been here forever. They aren’t going anywhere. They have beer and peanuts and baseball. And a giant TV screen. Do we have to wait to show them massive amounts of Buffalove until they decide to move to Carolina with Carborundum or Arizona with Teds?

It’s hard to believe that the Bisons just wrapped up the 26th season of baseball at PilotNorthAmericareDunnTireCocaColaJimmyGriffin (sorry if I left one out) Field.

TheButcher1986

The Bisons’ Most Famous “Bat Boy”: The Butcher at War Memorial Stadium, “The Rockpile,” in 1986.

Also hard to believe: if any good Buffalonian were on Family Feud, and RichardDawsonRayCombsLouieAndersonTheGuyFrom-HomeImprovementJohnOHurleySteveHarvey (sorry if I left one out) asked, “Name a Bisons’ Bat Boy,” we’d all have an immediate number one answer.

No other baseball city in the country has a bat boy turned bat man who lasted through two baseball stadiums and became an icon like our Butcher, shown above in 1986 at War Memorial Stadium.

We love our Bills and Sabres, but our Bisons are a much more Buffalo organization at the heart of it.

Mayor Griffin’s brass ones built the ball park. He just started building it, and sending some of the bills to Albany. And they paid.

The most famous Bisons of the last few decades include the Butcher, Conehead, The Earl of Bud, Larry the peanut guy, and Irv from the 7th inning stretch.

For the record, that’s beer, beer, peanuts, and shouting obnoxious things in unison during Gary Glitter’s Rock’N Roll Part 2. There’s some genuine, real article Buffalove.

It’s too late now, but maybe next season we can get all hipster and act like we just unearthed this amazing gem that is soooo Buffalo that we need to go and look at it, and drink beer. It’s at Washington and Swan.

Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers worked in grain mills or steel plants and nothing will bring them back. But guess what? They also watched the Bisons at Offerman Field.

And many of us went with our dads to the Rockpile. And the “new” ballpark.

It’s like preservation, without having to strap yourself to anything!

I love finding new-old stuff to rally behind, but I like the old-old stuff, too.

So, I hope I’m not alone in grabbing my Red&Blue/Green&Red/Blue&Orange/backtoRed&Blue (sorry if I left one out) Bisons gear, and looking forward to opening day at a home grown institution that screams Buffalo by screaming “WHO NEEDS A BEER…”

Charge!

Originally appeared on Trending Buffalo on September 3, 2013