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Missed Opportunities at World Juniors Tournament

After hearing the negative and positive comments about the World Juniors played in Buffalo, and working 10 out of 11 days in the service sector of the tournament, I would like to share some observations I made: Firstly, where were the greeters or volunteers stationed out front of the arena armed with maps, and information about restaurants, activities, and local attractions? Where were the shuttles willing to drive visitors for a nominal fee after and in between games to local neighborhood enclaves and destinations like the Elmwood strip, Galleria Mall, Chippewa Street, Rotary Rink, Niagara Falls, the Military Museum, the Hertel strip, Allentown? Why wasn’t there more coordination between this tournament and the bubble hockey tournament that ran parallel with it? How many visitors were made aware of the Stanley Cup exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery? How many visitors spent the new year with First Night in the Ellicott District or visited the winter light show at Delaware Park?

It was reported that almost 70 percent of the tickets went to Canadian tourists. How early in advance was this known? The Canadian contigent should have been catered to and targeted for preferential treatment and specials. The positive publicity in the Toronto (an international metropolis), Ontario, and Canadian media would have been an golden investment. We could have become sister regions, instead we got mixed reviews, a “Tale of Two Cities.” Jamestown was better prepared, a professional host, and gained tremendous exposure internationally, akin to Lake Placid.

The second observation I made was the lack of shops and restaurants near the arena. I follow the region, so I understand the canal area is being developed; unfortunately, tourists don’t. A Bass Pro would not have accented the arena, unless there was an outdoor, aquatic, or game convention in town. We have a world class arena and the development surrounding it needs to complement that and the type of diverse crowds it draws. The single underlying common factor of having the HSBC in the Harbor District is its visitors’ need for shops, restaurants, and related attractions.

The only sectors or establishments to benefit from the tournament were the few bars on Mississippi strip, taxi cabs, hotels, the solitary hot dog vendor on Washington Street, and a very large beer tent adjacent to the arena. Where were the local hockey leaders and politicians? It wasn’t even in my job description but I provided the Gusto and a metro map to visitors who asked for advice. I have been a lifelong resident of this area and I am tremedously disappointed in the preparations and opportunities provided to our international visitors. This tournament went on for 11 days, more than enough time to adjust their plan and salvage a failure. In 43 years, I have never given up on Buffalo, but we missed the boat on this one.

Mychael O’ Bohen, Cheektowaga

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