Buffalo Niagara Convention Center: Market and Feasibility Analysis

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"Erie County has commissioned a detailed study of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and its future. On this webpage you’ll find a full copy of the study and all attached documents and images. The study’s key finding: If Erie County wants to continue to attract conventions, the current site is functionally obsolete.

The experts who prepared the report propose two possible new locations for a modern convention center - a downtown expansion of the existing facility, and a brand new facility in the city’s entertainment district near Key Bank Arena. You’ll find all the details in the study.

We want to hear from you. Feedback is crucial as we formulate an answer to a very important question: Should we invest in a strategic long-term plan that would help create a state-of-the-art convention center for Buffalo and Erie County?

A 90-day comment period will be open from now through December 19, 2018. Comments received will be reviewed to help inform future decisions regarding the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

I thank you in advance for your thoughts, opinions and suggestions as we work together to decide the future of the convention industry in our region."

- Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz


BNCC-facade

Erie County engaged HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment (HVS) to conduct a market and feasibility analysis related to the potential redevelopment of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center (BNCC).

HVS has a team of more than 300 professionals located in over 50 offices throughout the world who specialize in all types of hospitality assets, including hotels, restaurants, casinos, shared ownership lodging, mixed-use developments, and golf courses as well as convention, sports, and entertainment facilities. Specific to convention centers, the HVS portfolio includes Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee; Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington; San Diego Convention Center in California; and Albany Capital Center in upstate New York.


KEY FINDINGS

  • The Buffalo-Niagara region is not fulfilling its potential in the convention industry.
  • Due to its physical constraints, the BNCC is “functionally obsolete” and does not have the capacity to attract most state, regional, and national convention events that would otherwise rotate to Buffalo.

 

Press Conference Presentation

(September 20, 2018)

 

 

 

COMPARABLE AND COMPETITIVE VENUES
  • When compared to regional markets, the existing BNCC event function spaces are below average in size and offer less flexibility to event planners.

 

Name of Venue

Location

Total Function Space

David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Pittsburgh, PA

423,046

Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland

Cleveland, OH

318,225

Wisconsin Center

Milwaukee, WI

265,841

Greater Richmond Convention Center

Richmond, VA

256,059

DeVos Place

Grand Rapids, MI

234,000

Connecticut Convention Center

Hartford, CT 

203,030

Rhode Island Convention Center  Providence, RI

133,988

Scotiabank Convention Centre

Niagara Falls, ON

124,037

Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

Buffalo, NY

102,869

Valley Forge Convention Center

King of Prussia, PA

89,843

 

BUILDING PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS
  • The recommended building program would approximately double the current BNCC function space within a state-of-the-art development. It would also allow the BNCC to handle more simultaneous events by offering more divisible function space.

 

Function Space

Existing BNCC

Recommended BNCC

Floor Areas (SF)

Exhibit Space

64,410

120,000 - 150,000

Ballroom Space

12,367

30,000 - 40,000

Meeting Space

26,092

30,000 - 45,000

Total

102,869

180,000 - 235,000

Divisions

Exhibit Space

2

4

Ballroom Space

1

6

Meeting Space

20

40

Total

23

50

 

  • Since the redeveloped BNCC would be a new demand generator, HVS recommends the development of additional hotel rooms such that the number of adjacent, attached rooms is at least 700.

 

DEMAND PROJECTIONS
  • Based on historical trends, the BNCC typically hosts between 140 and 150 events each year. Annual attendance ranges from 250,000 - 300,000, with public consumer shows providing the highest percentage of attendees. The BNCC generates approximately 28,000 room nights on an annual basis.
  • It is estimated that a redeveloped BNCC could potentially:
    • Host between 184 and 191 annual events;
    • Attract 425,000 - 480,000 attendees each year; and
    • Generate 57,000 to 65,000 room nights annually.

 

BNCC-inside 

 

ECONOMIC IMPACT POTENTIAL
  • Quantitative benefits
    • In a stabilized year of operation:
      • New direct spending in the local Erie County economy due to the proposed redevelopment of the BNCC could potentially be $31.4 million - $34.5 million;
      • The redeveloped BNCC could potentially support 185 - 205 permanent full-time equivalent jobs in Erie County; and
      • Erie County could potentially collect an additional $1.2 million - $1.3 million in taxes on new spending.
  • Qualitative benefits
    • A redeveloped, first-class BNCC would:
      • Showcase the strengths of Buffalo as a destination;
      • Be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood. With the BNCC as a prominent anchor, collateral lodging, retail, dining, and entertainment development would provide a strong boost to downtown renewal;
      • Enhance ongoing efforts to revitalize Buffalo’s downtown and enliven the neighborhood beyond regular working hours;
      • Attract leaders from a wide range of industries to the Buffalo market and offer the opportunity to build relationships;
      • Be an important consideration for corporations looking to relocate to Erie County; and
      • Encourage first-time convention delegates to return to the area with their spouses and families.

 

SITE SUITABILITY
  • The suitability of a site for the development of a convention center is an important consideration affecting the economic viability of a facility and its ultimate marketability.
  • The existing BNCC cannot be expanded and renovated within the limits of its current site in a way that would satisfy even the minimum building program recommendations. Fatal flaws of the current site include:
    • A site that is too small for the expanded building program;
    • Limited ability to host simultaneous events;
    • If expansion were to occur, a tall, complicated and relatively dysfunctional vertical building;
    • An inadequate height of ground level spaces; and
    • The inability to maintain operations during construction.
    • Additional deficiencies include aging building systems and infrastructure, inadequate support spaces and circulation (both internal and external), and a “bunker” aesthetic that fails to achieve goals for transparency, natural light, street-friendliness, and human scale.
  • HVS explored the suitability of seven site options within downtown Buffalo for the potential redevelopment of the BNCC. A set of 30 evaluation criteria was used to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses. Criteria included size, accessibility, visibility, and proximity to other amenities to name a few. The site analysis concluded that none of the site options fully satisfy all evaluation criteria. BNCC
  • This process identified the two site options that would likely be most suitable for a redeveloped BNCC – a central downtown site and a site closer to the waterfront. Concept-level designs and preliminary construction cost estimates were developed for both site options, each having its own advantages and disadvantages as the new or expanded BNCC.
  • Final site selection would depend on evaluating multiple factors beyond this study, including: (i) negotiations with landowners, (ii) specific legal and financial requirements, and (iii) environmental and geologic investigations.

 

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
  • Failure to expand or replace the BNCC - a “do nothing” approach - involves significant costs and risks to the County if it intends to maintain a viable convention center operation.
    • Building mechanical systems are well past their useful life and without replacement are likely to fail within the next few years.
    • As the BNCC ages, capital maintenance requirements will increase while utilization of the building decreases.
    • Convention events with the ability to move to competing venues are likely to do so as they outgrow the BNCC.
    • Substantial reinvestment will be necessary to maintain the unsatisfactory status quo.
  • HVS recommends that Erie County work with its governmental partners to explore options for financing, ownership, and operations of a redeveloped BNCC.

 

BNCC-FarMARKET AND FEASIBILITY ANALYSIS

Executive Summary

Full Report

 

  

 

 

 

COMMENTS

We want to hear from you!

A 90-day comment period will be open through December 19, 2018. Comments received will be reviewed to help inform future decisions regarding the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

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Last updated: October 8, 2018 9:14am