History Comes Alive at Coca Cola Field
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Bisons display goes back to Buffalo baseball origins
Fans attending Buffalo Bisons games this season at Coca Cola Field will find one very cool new amenity right down on the main concourse, near section 105.
What was a concession stand area has been transformed into a mini-museum, of sorts, and on display are all sorts of artifacts and memorabilia from the Bisons’ glorious history, going back through time to War Memorial Stadium, Offermann Stadium, and even some rare items from long-gone fields on the city’s West Side such as Olympic Park and Buffalo Baseball Park. These venues are where the Buffalo Bisons played back in the late 1800s, including their stint as a member franchise of the National League.
This permanent and changeable exhibit is all the vision of John Boutet of Grand Island, who is the driving force behind the Buffalo Sports Museum project. Boutet has the most voluminous collection of Buffalo sports artifacts anywhere around these parts, which he keeps in a private collection and is only too happy to share with other Buffalo fans who have a passion for this sort of thing.
In recent years Boutet has brought his memorabilia and items for display at a number of high-profile events, and a couple of seasons ago he garnered a great deal of attention at the ballpark on the Aud replica giveaway day, when fans lined up three deep at the showcases and displays of all things related to Buffalo’s beloved Memorial Auditorium. “All these special events I come out for,” Boutet said. “And as we began the relationship with the Bisons, I mentioned to Mike [Buczkowski] and Brad [Bisbing], ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a permanent place to show these things for the public?’ So that was always in the back of their mind and it was just a matter of finding a spot. That was their goal. Whenever one comes up I will be willing to help out. In December the Bisons emailed me and said, ‘We have a spot for you.’ I came down and saw the space, and I could already see what we wanted to do.”
As Boutet enthusiastically explained how the museum all came together, fans were dropping by and offering items for donation or loan to add to the collection. “Look here,” he said, presenting a recently acquired prized artifact. “An 1882 Bisons ticket stub from Riverside Park.”
The space is open at every Bisons home game, and Boutet tries to be in attendance for at least two of every three games. “I’m here an hour before first pitch, and try to stay until the fifth or sixth innings.” Boutet has rotated the displays throughout the season, changing the theme every few weeks, and inviting fans to return to see the new things to see. “These past few weeks we’ve been focusing on Offermann Stadium. After the All Star Break we plan to swap things out and put the spotlight on the Rockpile.”
Boutet has a bigger vision when it comes to properly showcasing Buffalo’s great sports history on yet a bigger stage. “We are teaming up with the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame,” he said. “We have a group of three of us now that are actively trying to find a site. We have spoken with a lot of different people who are movers and shakers in downtown real estate and development. How close we are I don’t know. We want to be right here, right downtown, like Baltimore has, like Cincinnati has, like Green Bay has, we want to be where the people are. But this is a great start, right here at Coca Cola Field, where people can see and experience what a great past we had here.”
Wouldn’t a joint attraction with the three museums, perhaps at Canalside, be a great destination for visitors and a place people would pay to come and visit? “That’s what we’re thinking,” Boutet said. “It’s getting to the right people and getting them to sign on. When it’s going to happen I don’t know but I’m certain at some point it is going to happen.”
Around the Bases…
• With the Bisons in a tailspin right about now and in fourth place in a tight IL North Division, one of the bright spots is AA callup Kevin Pillar. Pillar was overlooked as he joined the team the same day as All Star Jose Reyes arrived to begin his rehab assignment. He has hit in 14 of the first 16 games he has played for the Bisons, has reached base safely in all 16 games, and is batting .348 (as of this past Sunday).
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v12n28 (Week of Thursday, July 11) > History Comes Alive at Coca Cola Field
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds