"The Aud" - Buffalo Memorial Auditorium


Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Photo courtesy Chris Andrle

On May 6, 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the largest and by far most comprehensive of the New Deal agencies. The goal of the WPA and other federal employment agencies such as the CCC and the CWA, was to provide work for the millions of unemployed Americans during the great depression of the 1930ís.1

Anyone who needed a job could apply, and the hourly wages were the prevailing wages in the area. Over 8.5 million Americans were hired through WPA to work on projects such as building bridges, dams, public buildings and roads. There were also important cultural works done by the WPA's Federal Arts Program, Federal Writer Project, Federal Music Project, Federal Theater Project, and the Historical Records Survey.1


The Auditorium at SE Broadway and Nash St.
Photo courtesy Buffalo Architecture and History

In Buffalo, one such project was the replacement of the aging Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo's only convention hall. The cornerstone was laid on November 30, 1939. Located between Lower Terrace and Lake Streets, the $2,700,000 Arena stands at one end of what was once the Erie Canal in the oldest section of Buffalo. Opening ceremonies for the 422' by 262' auditorium with its 12,280-tiered red, blue and gray-colored seats and 2,000-3,000 floor-level moveable seats was held on October 14, 1940. A parade and 3,000-person luncheon was held at the Auditorium. The affair was described as one of the largest civic celebrations ever held in Buffalo. The Aud was formally dedicated in memory of those who had died in World War combat.2


Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Photo courtesy Legends of the Buffalo Sabres

Memorial Auditorium became the center of entertainment for Buffalo. In the first seven months, events drew over one million spectators. Locals flocked to the Aud to see concerts, political rallies, dog shows, circuses, ice shows and sporting events. The Aud became the new home of the Buffalo Bisons Professional Hockey Club. Louis M. Jacobs, owner of Jacob's Concessions, acquired the Syracuse AHL franchise and moved them to Buffalo. The "Herd" (Bisons) soon became the powerhouse of the circuit, winning the Calder Cup Playoff Championship in 1943, 1944 and 1946.2


The Buffalo Skyway built in 1955 goes around the Memorial Auditorium - c. 1956
Photo courtesy Western New York Heritage Press

By 1955, the Aud was in need of vast improvement and a $595,000 plan was undertaken.2 At the start of the 1956-57 campaigns, Reuben Pastor, owner of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Buffalo, purchased the Bisons and changed the team's logo to the now famous "Buffalo Bottle Cap".3 The Pastors introduced a local youth ice hockey program that utilized the Aud for it's games. The programs ensured that the love for the sport remained large in the hearts of many young Buffalonians.2


DJ, Tom Diskin, Bitsy Mott and Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo courtesy Sheila Roth


Elvis backstage in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts, courtesy Christopher David Giles

On April 1, 1957, Elvis performed in Buffalo at the Memorial Auditorium for the first time on what would be the band's first of only two tours that year.  Having played in Detroit the night before, it would be the only tour that included dates in the Northeast.  The review in the Buffalo Courier-Express the following day entitled "Elvis' Grin Enthralls Girl Fans" said of Elvis, "Singer Real Showman." 


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo courtesy Sheila Roth

At 9:52 last night an earsplitting soprano ovation set the very foundations of Memorial Auditorium a-quaking. Elvis Presley sauntered onto the floodlit stage and grinned a sheepish grin. The roar increased. And Elvis grinned.4


Elvis interviewed backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts, courtesy Christopher David Giles


Elvis interviewed backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts, courtesy Christopher David Giles

For three solid minutes, like the high-pitched whines of a squadron of jet-planes, they screamed. Elvis held up his hand for silence. He muttered something that was lost in the frenzy. Then he twitched his well-publicized pelvis and the screams louder than ever.4


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo  (by Ken Butts?), courtesy Sheila Roth


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo  (by Ken Butts?), courtesy FECC


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts, courtesy Christopher David Giles

His gargantuan mop of hair spilled over his forehead. He cuddled the mike. He snickered at the gallery behind the bunting-draped stage. Young girls squeezed their temples with their hands as if in sublime agony. Elvis himself appeared as though afflicted by a serious case of stomach cramps.4


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts, courtesy Christopher David Giles


Elvis backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo  (by Ken Butts?), courtesy FECC


Gene Smith, Elvis and Ken Moore backstage with fans in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo (by Ken Butts?), courtesy FECC


Ticket for show in Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo courtesy Zane Fairchild

But through it all, Elvis, Tennesseeís gift to teen-agers, played his part to the hilt. He is an amazing phenomenon and he had the giant audience in the palm of his hand.4


Elvis performs to a crowd estimated at 14,000 at Memorial Auditorium - Apr. 1, 1957
Newspaper Photo courtesy Robert Gordon's "The King on The Road"


DJ and Elvis at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Ken Butts courtesy Ger Rijff''s "Long Lonely Highway"

The giant crowd, mostly teenagers and predominately girls, began filtering into the Auditorium about 6:30 p.m. Some remained there for about an hour after Presley had sprinted from the stage.4


DJ, Elvis and Bill at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Robert L. Smith courtesy Sheila Roth


DJ, Elvis and Bill at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Robert L. Smith courtesy Ger Rijff''s "Long Lonely Highway"


DJ, Elvis and Bill at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © courtesy Robert L. Smith

"Are you sure there isnít a policemanís ball here tonight?" one early arrival asked. Actually, thatís the way it looked. About 180 uniformed police and plainclothesmen, including auxiliary police, were in the audience. Capt. John F. Mahoney of the Franklin Station was in command. The large force of police helped keep the huge crowd well under control.4


Elvis and Bill at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © courtesy Robert L. Smith


Bill, DJ, The Jords, Elvis and Scotty at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Toronto Telegram Photo courtesy ValhallaCards

The only violence took place outside Memorial Auditorium about 10 when police arrested a youth who, they said, was throwing stones at auditorium windows. The youth, who identified himself as John Jerry, 16, of 228 Pratt St., was arrested on a charge of malicious mischief.4


Elvis at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © Robert L. Smith courtesy Ger Rijff''s "Long Lonely Highway"


Elvis and Hoyt Hawkins at Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY Apr. 1, 1957
Photo © courtesy Robert L. Smith


Robert L. Smith shown taking the picture above this one in the same instant
Photo courtesy FECC

Lew Horschel, veteran Auditorium concessionaire, said the house was the largest and most enthusiastic heíd ever seen. And that goes back 40 years. Tickets sold for $2, $2.50, $3 and $3.50.4 Elvis would not perform in Buffalo again until the '70s, and then it would be with the TCB band.


first NHL game face-off at Memorial Auditorium - Oct 15, 1970
Photo courtesy Legends of the Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Bisons ceased operations as American Hockey League Champions in 1970, making way for the National Hockey league (NHL) expansion Buffalo Sabres.  In 1970 an $8.7 million renovation raised the 2,200-ton roof of the Memorial Auditorium 24 feet for expansion of seating capacity to 18,000 seats.  In its time the Memorial Auditorium would play host to many more rock acts that would include the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Who, The Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Van Halen to name just a few. 


playing in the fog - May 20, 1975
Photo courtesy Versus NHL

On May 20, 1975, during game 3 of the Stanley cup playoffs between the Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers, a bat got into the auditorium and had been flying around during the game for awhile.  One of the players killed it with his stick during a face-off.  The temperature in the auditorium at ice level had risen to a humid 90 degrees causing a fog to appear over the ice that stopped the game several times because of poor visibility.  The Sabres won the game, in overtime.5


The Sabres playing in Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Photo courtesy Art.com

By 1996, time had caught up with the Aud and it was locked and boarded up when the state-of-the-art Crossroads Arena Ė now known as the HSBC Arena, opened its doors for the first time. A new era of history for the City had been ushered in.3  The Sabres moved into their new arena after the 1995-96 season.


Center Ice - May 14, 2007
Photo © Andrew Emond

After the move, the building remained vacant and began to fall into disrepair. In recent years, there were  discussions to have Bass Pro Shops move into a portion of the building. Financially it became not viable, so the latest plans are now to demolish the building to make it available for the future redevelopment of the Erie Canal Harbor area.1


Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
The PensBlog

In October of 2007 The City announced that "Bass Pro Shops intends to build a store at the Memorial Auditorium site, and that offices, a hotel and residential space will go up around it."  In December it was announced the City would transfer ownership of the Aud to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) for one dollar, which would defer the $10 million price tag of demolishing the structure. It also means that the ECHDC can move forward with site developments announced (in October) at an Erie Canal Terminus press conference. The expanded vision for the Canal-Side Project required that site of the Aud would be utilized as part of the Inner Harbor extension.6


Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and HSBC Arena - Oct. 14, 2007
Photo courtesy JB's Warehouse and Curio Emporium

16829.jpg (43448 bytes)16829b.jpg (38244 bytes)outer-harbor-vision-buffalo.jpg (49393 bytes)
Canal-Side Project
courtesy Buffalo Rising Online

Part of the transfer agreement spelled out the joint intentions between The City and the ECHDC to auction off much of the Aud's highly sought after memorabilia, including Blue Level Auditorium Seats and Hockey Arena Boards. The proceeds from the auction will go towards building a monument that will pay tribute to the iconic sports arena. The public auction will most likely be held next summer, with demolition commencing in 18-months.6

Aud08.jpg (126157 bytes)
The Aud - 2008
 courtesy Microsoft Corporation © EathData

page added June 4, 2008  (pictures from Sheila Roth added May 28, 2011)
  

1 excerpt from WPA Projects, a Waymarking Category
2
excerpt from "The Aud" - Memorial Auditorium by Tim Warchocki courtesy Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association
3 excerpt from "Buffalo Bisons History"
4
"Elvis' Grin Enthralls Girl Fans" by Dick Hirsch, Buffalo Courier-Express, April 2, 1957, courtesy Ger Rijff's "Long Lonely Highway"
5 "Sabres Win First Stanley Cup Game In Fog" by George Walters, June 13, 1999
6 courtesy Buffalo Rising Online



The Aud: A Look At Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium


In June of 2009 "The Aud" was finally razed.


courtesy "In Buffalo, it's the end of the Aud as we knew it"

added June 30, 2009

 

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