BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Byron Brown is fine with either title, mayor of Buffalo or "Pegulaville," which is what Sabres fans have begun affectionately referring to their city in tribute to the NHL franchise's owner Terry Pegula.
It works either way, because Brown knows all too well that this rustbelt, hard-luck town with a reputation for chicken wings, harsh winters and two professional sports teams without a championship between them has been called far worse.
"I absolutely get a kick out of it," Brown said, referring to the nickname "because it's another positive way the community is being branded."
He's more impressed with the man behind the name, because of what Pegula has done for Buffalo in the 18 months since the Pennsylvania billionaire purchased the Sabres.
"He's a person of action. He's someone that gets things done," Brown said. "One of the first conversations I had after he came to town is that he said, 'I want to help you build Buffalo.'"
That vow is turning into reality because Pegulaville is in for an expansion.
The Pegula-backed and fully privately funded $123-million development proposal to build a multi-purpose complex on a downtown block across the street from the Sabres arena received the green light last week.
Construction is set to start in March on a 614,000 square-foot building that is designed to feature a 200-room hotel, two ice rinks (including one with an 1,800-seating capacity), retail/restaurant space and parking garage.
For Buffalo, it's the latest in a string of under-construction and proposed developments set to be built on prime land along the newly redeveloped Canalside harbor front district.
For Pegula, who made his fortune in the natural gas industry and whose worth has been estimated at $3 billion, it's his latest $100-million-plus endeavor.
Over the past two years, Pegula has committed more than $100 million to his alma mater Penn State to fund the construction of a hockey arena and elevate the school's hockey program to Division I. He then spent nearly $200 million to purchase the Sabres and their minor league affiliate in Rochester.
And that doesn't include the $8 million he spent on renovating the Sabres locker room or the some $140 million the team has committed in salary to sign free agents and secure its own stars.
Now he is turning his attention to the city itself.
"I've always been what you call a Northeasterner, and it just happens that my favorite hockey team resided in Buffalo," said Pegula, who previously lived in western New York and now makes his home in Florida. "And I see where the city needs some assistance."
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