Dunkin’ Donuts Named Official Coffee of Adirondack Bank Center and Utica Comets

Dunkin’ Donuts has been named the official coffee of the Utica Comets and Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York, which will now serve Dunkin’ Donuts signature coffee during all events through September of 2022.  The announcement was made today during the official first brew at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Dunkin’ Donuts hot coffee, iced coffee and hot chocolate will be available during all Adirondack Bank Center events beginning on Friday, March 9, when the Comets host the Springfield Thunderbirds at the Adirondack Bank Center.

“Dunkin’ Donuts is thrilled to make our signature hot coffee, iced coffee and hot chocolate available during all games and future events at the Adirondack Bank Center,” said Dunkin’ Donuts Integrated Marketing Manager Eric Stensland. “We are extremely proud to be the official coffee of both the Comets and the Utica Pioneers men’s and women’s hockey programs in this great city. Dunkin’ Donuts cherishes the opportunity to keep Utica fans running while attending games and enjoying the many events at the Adirondack Bank Center.”

Comets President Robert Esche and Comets Captain Carter Bancks joined Stensland and other Dunkin’ Donuts representatives for the ceremonial first pour, which took place in a concession at the Adirondack Bank Center. The event was also attended by Jeff Stone, President of ORB Food & Beverage and by Utica College Men’s Hockey Head Coach Gary Heenan and Women’s Hockey Head Coach Dave Clausen.

“We’re extremely excited to have Dunkin’ Donuts partner with the Comets and the Adirondack Bank Center for the next five years,” said Comets President Robert Esche. “Aligning ourselves with a national brand like Dunkin’ Donuts will further enhance the overall fan experience at the Adirondack Bank Center.”

The first official cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee will be one of many brewed in the Adirondack Bank Center over the next five years.  The 3,924-seat, National Historic Engineering Landmark is home to the AHL’s Utica Comets, Utica College Pioneers Men’s and Women’s hockey programs, and the Utica Jr. Comets youth hockey organization. The venue also recently underwent a large-scale, 26,000-square foot construction endeavor that added a luxury seating wing, additional women’s restrooms, ADA-compliant amenities, and more.

“The addition of Dunkin’ Donuts to ORB Food & Beverage’s repertoire at the Adirondack Bank Center is exciting not only for the Adirondack Bank Center but for Utica as a whole,” said Jeff Stone, President of ORB Food & Beverage, the company that operates the concessions at the Adirondack Bank Center.

The recent partnership with the Utica Comets, Utica Pioneers men’s and women’s hockey programs and the Adirondack Bank Center is part of a long-term commitment from Dunkin’ Donuts to both the Utica community and the sport of hockey. Dunkin’ Donuts is also proud to serve as an official sponsor of both the National Hockey League and National Women’s Hockey League.

Syracuse Stars Junior & Midget Teams Relocating to Adirondack Bank Center

Utica Comets President Robert Esche announced today that Syracuse Stars will relocate three of their teams – USPHL NCDC (Tuition Free), Premier, and U-18 Tier 1 – to the Adirondack Bank Center for the 2018-19 season. The United States Premier Hockey League is the largest hockey league in the United States and places hundreds of players in the collegiate ranks each year.

Esche and Stars Owner Don Kirnan worked together to bring the three teams down the thruway to Utica, where they will add another layer of tenants to the historic home of the Comets, Utica College Pioneers, and Jr. Comets.

The Stars play in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL), and participate in both regular season games, showcase tournaments, and playoffs. The regular season consists of approximately 60 games, split between home and away. Teams are located across the northeast, with players from all over the world.

The acquisition of the three Stars junior teams is another step forward for the partnership between the Comets and Stars, and a testament to the longstanding relationship between Esche and Kirnan. The two have known each other for over 20 years, when Esche was coached by Kirnan during his time playing with the Syracuse Stars Junior team. The Stars began partnering with the Jr. Comets last winter, when members of the Jr. Comets Peewee team traveled to Quebec City as part of the Syracuse Stars. The partnership continued up north to Quebec earlier this month. And for the Jr. Comets, the relocation of the Stars teams to Utica further aligns the players with the USPHL for their future hockey careers.

“In building the Stars program over 30 years, I feel totally confident that Rob Esche and Nicole Kirnan have the vision and experience to bring youth and junior hockey to the best place ever in Central New York,” said Don Kirnan.

“It’s always an honor when you can partner on the sport that you love with a leader like Don Kirnan,” said Esche. “This partnership is extremely exciting to me personally as it will not only bring kids from all over the world to be billeted in Utica but will also add another element of tutelage for the younger hockey players as well.”

Esche and Kirnan will spend the Spring and Summer organizing the transition of the teams from Syracuse to Utica. This will include scheduling of ice, allocating space at the Adirondack Bank Center, overall marketing efforts, community endeavors, and billeting needs. The Adirondack Bank Center is now home to hockey programs ranging all the way from Mites to Juniors to College to Professional.

Finally, the additional tenant at the Adirondack Bank Center could not have come at a more opportune time, as plans for the Nexus Center continue to move forward. The future of a tournament-based sports recreation facility shines much brighter with a neighbor just next door housing all levels of hockey. The Adirondack Bank Center and Nexus Center can truly exist in a mutualistic fashion, possible primarily through the sport of hockey thriving and growing in downtown Utica.

Syracuse Stars’ Tier 1 U-16 Tier 1 team will continue to play out of Syracuse. 

Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

Jr. Comets: www.uticajrcomets.com

Stars: www.syracusestars.com 


SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2018 – 5PM
Adirondack Bank Center, Utica, New York



Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns vs. Tag Team Champions, The Bar

Braun Strowman vs. Elias


Finn Balor
Matt Hardy
Bray Wyatt
Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss
2018 Royal Rumble Champion, Asuka

Tickets start at just $15 and will be available starting Friday March 2nd at 10AM. Tickets available at the Adirondack Bank Center box office or by phone at 1-866-688-8750. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.empirestatetix.com!

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

November 1, 2017, the Adirondack Bank Center opened its doors for the Utica Comets fifth season home opener. Despite a shootout loss, the night was one of the more special ones to take place at The AUD, with an array of new amenities and game day events that tied together the start of hockey season with the 26,000-square foot West End Expansion.




The Upper Mohawk Valley Auditorium Authority hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony inside the newly remodeled Adirondack Bank Center’s Labatt Blue Ticket Entrance before the Utica Comets home opener last night.

The ceremony was attended by Comets General Manager Ryan Johnson, AHL Executive Vice President Chirs Nikolis, the AUD Authority, elected officials, and the Comets staff & family. Senator Joe Griffo, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, County Executive Anthony Picente, and Mayor Robert Palmeri all spoke, universally acknowledging the helping hands of many who pushed forward to complete the project in an expedited manner.

“You have to see it to believe it,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. “This is a project I strongly believed in from day one, and there are many who helped make it a reality. The best way to appreciate what has been accomplished is to come down and see the new Adirondack Bank Center for yourself. The AUD has been, and will continue to be a significant part of downtown Utica’s growth and bright future, and these renovations will be a significant drawing card to the center city.”

“The ribbon cutting seamlessly tied together the work of those who are truly responsible for the success of the West End Expansion Project,” added Comets President Robert Esche. “Without the helping hands of the AUD Authority and elected officials, the project would never have been possible, especially to the level we were able to complete it at.”




The highly anticipated fifth season of Comets hockey opened to elated crowds at the newly remodeled Adirondack Bank Center on Wednesday night. 

Construction on the site began less than 200 days prior, and fans could only wonder what was happening inside as they passed by their beloved building on their daily commutes.  But as soon they entered the building with wide eyes and big smiles, it soon became an organic family reunion of sorts. The electric energy was felt by all in attendance – an attendance that set a new record in the history of The AUD.

“I thought it was really impressive, seeing the renovations for the first time,” said Tim Fitzgerald, five-year season ticket member. “The suites look as good as what you might see in an NHL arena and the whole building had a good vibe. I think we have a quality team playing in a quality building. I’m excited to see how this team progresses. They’ve got some good talent and I think as they get familiar playing with each other they could be dangerous come playoffs.”

“Remember the anticipation of your childhood birthday or knowing Santa would arrive while you are sleeping?” proclaimed fan Cheryllyn Tallman. “You weren’t sure what to expect but there was always the hope of something new and exciting. That’s the experience of walking into the new and definitely improved Adirondack Bank Center. The changes were welcoming and the returning happy faces from all those that work there were a very welcome sight. Excitement and anticipation were certainly felt within the crowds of fans. From the familiar chanting of U-TI-CA to the sea of Comets gear roaming the halls, it was a stellar night all around.”

The pregame ceremony highlighted the past, present and future of Comets hockey with over 30 youth hockey skaters joining the Comets players on the ice forming a “U” around center ice. A special video tribute played throughout the arena, paying homage to the history of the Comets as flags streaked out from tunnels featuring various Comets logos. 

Last night was also the first time that fans were able to enter through the AUD plaza, explore the renovated Labatt Blue Ticket Entrance, visit the women’s restrooms, and enjoy the new suite wing of The AUD, featuring six executive suites as well as Zuhaus, the loge seating area.

“I think the renovations to the outside of the building give it a clean modern look that makes a great impression and I like how open the outside plaza area is,” said Brett Vanderlan, a five-year Season Ticket Member. “Everything feels updated and fresh inside, especially the lobby. The suites look great and look as if they were always meant to be a part of the building.”

The outcome on the ice may not have ended in the Comets favor but the first night back home will be remembered by fans for years to come.


Mohawk Valley Garden CEO Robert Esche announced today that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is coming to the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday, June 1, for UFC Fight Night.

With the help of Senator Joe Griffo and Garden Entertainment, UFC will make their stop in Utica just over two years since mixed martial arts (MMA) became legal again in the state of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on April 14, 2016, with help from Griffo in facilitating the process. New York was the last of all 50 states to legalize MMA. The first fight in New York since legalization took place on November 16, 2016, at Madison Square Garden, with Connor McGregor victorious over Eddie Alvarez.   

“It is an honor to be able to host such a monumental event in such an historic building as the Adirondack Bank Center,” said CEO of MVG Robert Esche. “On the heels of the AHL All-Star Classic, the UFC announcement adds immensely to the momentum building at our venue.”

“We are pleased that the UFC has decided to bring an event to Utica and the Mohawk Valley,” said Senator Joe Griffo. “The Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium is an exceptional venue for this event.”

This event will be the seventh event in New York State since its legalization, and the first time UFC has ever come to Utica. 

After heated back-and-forth exchanges that have lit up social media, bantamweight stars Jimmie Rivera and “Magic” Marlon Moraes will finally settle their score in the Octagon, with the showdown set to headline the UFC’s first visit to Utica, New York’s Adirondack Bank Center on June 1. Also in action on the UFC Fight Night card is New York lightweight standout Gregor Gillespie, who puts his unbeaten record on the line against knockout artist Vinc Pichel.

Also scheduled is Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz in the heavyweight division and Hector Sandoval vs. Jarred Brooks in the flyweight division. In a women’s flyweight bout, Sijara Eubanks will take on Lauren Murphy.

The UFC Fight Night in Utica is expected to be televised on Fox Sports 1. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Friday, April 6. Ticket prices will be announced in the coming weeks. 

About UFC®
UFC® is a premium global sports brand and the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world. Acquired in 2016 by global sports, entertainment and fashion leader Endeavor (formerly WME | IMG), together with strategic partners Silver Lake Partners and KKR, UFC is headquartered in Las Vegas with a network of employees around the world. UFC produces more than 40 live events annually that consistently sell out some of the most prestigious arenas around the globe, while programming is broadcast in over 163 countries and territories to more than 1.1 billion TV households worldwide in 35 different languages. UFC FIGHT PASS®, a digital subscription service, delivers exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand and original content to fans around the world. For more information, visit UFC.com and follow UFC at Facebook.com/UFC, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram: @UFC.


On September 28, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo arrived at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome to make a pair of special announcements.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. took to the podium first, and spoke to the correlation between Governor Cuomo and the Mohawk Valley’s revival.

“Without the Governor’s help, this continuation of the growth and buildout at the newly-named Adirondack Bank Center at The AUD, for the Comets, Utica College and all of their events, and for the rebirth in downtown Utica that has stimulated new growth, new opportunity, and new investment, would not have been possible,” Picente remarked.

Governor Cuomo took to the podium next to present Picente with a check for 10.55 million dollars to fund the West End Expansion Project, officially marking the project as fully-funded by the State; the construction endeavor at the newly-named Adirondack Bank Center is well on its way to add 26,000-square feet for women’s restrooms, office space, and, most visibly, suites and loge seating. The project will also include ADA-compliant renovations and a full sprinkler system, and will be completed in just a month’s time. Governor Cuomo spoke to the success of the Adirondack Bank Center, the Comets, and Utica College, and the impact that the facility and its tenants have had not only on the Utica area, but throughout the State of New York.

“For decades, the Utica AUD has been a great centerpiece for Utica,” Governor Cuomo proclaimed. “And for sports and for recreation, The AUD has been the place…so the decision was made to renovate the AUD, because you want to be competitive, creative, and you want people to continue to come.”

“Why renovate it?” Cuomo continued. “The Comets are doing extraordinarily well at The AUD, and we applaud Mr. Esche. But we want him to do even better – we want more economic activity. The theory is that if you make an investment, you will attract more business. Today, that theory proves correct.”

In conjunction with Governor Cuomo, Chris Nikolis, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development with the American Hockey League, proceeded to surprise the crowd by revealing that Utica is to host the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic, Presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino, on January 28 and 29, 2018. This will be the second time that Utica, and the newly-named Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, have hosted the two-day event, which brings in representatives from all 30 teams to face off in both a seven-part skills competition and a round-robin 3-on-3 all-star tournament, where the teams are divided up by its four conferences. The Comets and The AUD hosted the same event in 2015, which was a massive achievement, thanks in large part to the help of Turning Stone.

Nikolis spoke to both Utica’s successful sellout streak and their fan base, as well as the connection to the West End Expansion Project.

“I can attest to the fact that the Comets have transformed an area, built a loyal fan base, and been a great league partner since their inception,” Nikolis explained. “We had a truly great event here in 2015, and that blueprint will allow us to not only match 2015’s event, but far surpass it.”

AHL President Dave Andrews also expressed his support of awarding Utica and the Adirondack Bank Center with this milestone event.

“The American Hockey League is thrilled to be returning to the Mohawk Valley for our All-Star Classic,” said Andrews. “We owe great thanks to Robert Esche, the Comets organization, the State of New York and Turning Stone Resort Casino for offering their first-class facilities and accommodations once again so that we can showcase our brightest stars in front of capacity crowds and international television audiences.”

While the two announcements do not appear to overlap in black and white, they tie together seamlessly in their relation to the development and overall success of the Adirondack Bank Center. The decision of the AHL to return to Utica three years later for the All-Star Classic is a testament to the impact that the project has already had, even with a month left to go in the construction process. The suites and loge seating elevate the Adirondack Bank Center to the level of other AHL arenas, and even some NHL ones, by providing fans with an array of premium seating options and an improved overall fan experience.

“It’s a complete honor and privilege to have Adirondack Bank Center selected as the host city for the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic,” Esche expressed. “The check presentation from The State also demonstrates their positive viewpoint on the Adirondack Bank Center and its ability to catalyze tourism in the Mohawk Valley.”

As the Comets prepare to enter their fifth anniversary season, the announcement of both the 10.55 million from the State of New York and the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic could not be a better joint representation of how far Utica has come in the past couple of years. These two pivotal moments in Utica’s history close out an exciting week – a week that also included the unveiling of The AUD’s first ever naming rights deal, officially adjusting the name of the venue to the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Thursday’s announcements are evidence of not only the national impact of AHL hockey in Utica, but also the power of the civic pride running rampant through the Comets fan base in the community. 


The history of beer in Utica is a rich one, dating back to the 1800s. Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. is looking to bring history to the present and carry it through the future with the American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center.

Unveiled on May 16 by Picente, along with Mohawk Valley Garden CEO Robert Esche, The U District encompasses the area beginning at The AUD and stretching East to Bagg’s Square and contains concepts for an American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center, Utica Commons Casino, Nexus Center and more. The core goal of The U District is to connect rising local businesses and attractions to create a walkable, modern and plentiful region of growth.

With the number of breweries in New York State exploding from 95 in 2012 to 320 in 2016, and production increasing by 26% during that time, New York has established itself as a major national player in the industry. In fact, New York was the fifth largest beer producing state behind California, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Oregon in 2016, and its craft beer industry is currently ranked fourth in the country with an economic impact of $4 billion. Included in those breweries are Oneida County’s own F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica, Woodland Farm Brewery in Marcy, Copper City Brewing Company in Rome and 16 Stone Brewpub in Holland Patent. This makes it easy to see that brewing has become a large facet of local entrepreneurship that deserves a platform for exposure.

The proposed American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center will span over 100,000 square feet of building and outdoor space and feature an Exhibition Hall, an Innovation Center and Incubator, an Artisan Marketplace, a Beer Garden and more. The space has a projected 500,000 annual visitors and the potential to create over 200 jobs, both of which add to the core goal of increasing foot traffic in downtown Utica while maximizing employment.


The museum portion of the facility will feature interchangeable and interactive exhibits on every topic relating to craft brewing; including tastings, demonstrations and nano-brewing on site. The outdoor Beer Garden will be the ideal green space for private events or to enjoy a cold beer after work with your peers. The Innovation Center will be committed to the growth of start-ups in the craft beer, spirits and related industries.

In the U.S. alone, there exists over 35,000 museums covering an array of topics – but none for craft beer. With the average adult consuming 28.2 gallons of beer annually, it is an industry that is not only relevant to the country, but also to Oneida County. The proposed Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center would directly correlate to the F.X. Matt Brewing Company, located less than a mile from The U District. The brewery, which was established in 1888, is well known for being the first to sell a beer after the end of Prohibition — it’s popular Utica Club pilsner —  as well as for its extensive tours of its facility.

The museum will highlight the history of F.X. Matt, as well as other local microbreweries and brew pubs, while also educating locals and visitors on the complex processes regarding the brewing of craft beers. Adding the museum to Utica will merely enhance the traffic through F.X. Matt, as it will be a natural progression for patrons to visit both facilities. The museum element of The U District will promote entrepreneurship and innovation and tie into the foot traffic from The Nexus Center, the Utica Commons Casino and the existing traffic from the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

“Nothing links sports and entertainment together quite as well as beer, and this is a great opportunity to showcase the intricacies of a rising industry while experiencing all Utica has to offer,” said Robert Esche.

While a craft beer museum would be a first for the nation, it seems fitting that it would exist in Utica – not only in the former hops Capitol of America, but also a city experiencing a tangible resurgence.  Placing the museum in The U District creates linkage between Bagg’s Square East and West and the Arts, Sports and Entertainment District, ultimately creating a walkable epicenter. The museum will act as another catalyst in driving the critical masses and emphasizing the principal goals of The U District.


Those of you who have been to Lake Placid, New York, are familiar with the basics: it’s a small town in upstate New York that gains most of its revenue from tournament-based sports recreation play. This is the exact foot traffic and critical mass that increases sales tax revenue while supporting the local hotels and restaurants. CEO of Mohawk Valley Garden Robert Esche has similar aspirations for Utica, New York.

Unveiled on May 16 by Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., The U District encompasses the area beginning at The AUD and stretching East to Bagg’s Square and contains concepts for an American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center, Utica Commons Casino, Nexus Center and more. The vision creates a walkable epicenter for Arts, Sports and Entertainment and truly has options for everyone.

One of the highlights of The U District is the Nexus Center. Developed four years ago by Esche, the Nexus Center is a sports and recreation hub geared towards tournament-based recreation play. Nexus, meaning a series of connections, is what The U District can truly be – a connection of different businesses and entities that all share the common undercurrent of bringing people together.

Ever since last week’s press conference, people in the Mohawk Valley and beyond cannot stop talking about The Nexus Center. The reason being is that it ties together an array of different interests and pastimes in prime location next to The AUD. With square footage space for three hockey rinks that can easily be transitioned to basketball courts, indoor soccer, lacrosse and rugby fields, The Nexus Center extends its reach to all seasons and all athletes.

The venue will be combined with a one-stop-shop for all sports and recreation activity in the Northeast, stretching from Toronto to New York City to Boston and more. Esche believes that the cards have aligned for The Nexus Center to be that focal facility with an ability to cater to a very specific economic driver in tournament-based sports recreation play, coupled with innovative convention and event space.

“With its leadership from Senator Joe Griffo, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, and Onedia County Exectuive Anthony Picente, Utica and the surrounding area is finally positioned to tackle the tourism industry as a whole,” Esche explained. “The bigger the dreams, the better, especially when turning these concepts into realities.”

And the concepts for The Nexus Center have taken into account just that; the bright future that is ahead for Utica, New York, and how to capitalize on its upward momentum. In this footprint, Nexus will have the ability to expand on its retail usage, as well as the ability to attract others. Moreover, conceptual and strategic planning endeavors are underway on how to not only maximize the space, but to also increase the square footage of the facility to include other sectors of sports and entertainment.

So why does The Nexus Center make sense in The U District? The answer is simple – foot traffic.

Much like the American Craft Beer Museum and Utica Commons Casino, Nexus projects hundreds of thousands of visitors passing through its doors annually. And when you combine the above facilities, The U District as a whole is expected to attract over 1.5 million patrons annually. When you take into account that each facility’s resources overlap into one another, it becomes an easy model to understand – a model that builds off of existing infrastructure to house an arts, sports, and entertainment district.

“With a sustainable business model already in place, it is imperative that we expedite and move forward in a manner conducive to success,” said Esche. “This is a project that can catapult us ahead of like markets, and put Utica on the map where it belongs. 


When Mayor John T. McKennan came up with the idea for a central hub of activity in Utica, New York, he had no idea that sixty years later, in 2017, similar minds would piggyback on his innovative plan to make The AUD and its surrounding area the place to live, work, and play.

Earlier this week, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. unveiled a comprehensive plan for The U District; a vision that both expands The AUD and develops new land in the area for the Nexus Center for Sports and Recreation, American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center, Utica Commons Casino, and more. The U District would not only generate exponential revenue for Utica, but would also embody a new way of life for Uticans, and provide them with a walkable and scenic atmosphere. The spark for The U District, a West End Expansion project at The AUD, broke ground earlier this month and will add luxury suites, premium loge seating, women’s bathrooms, and other amenities to the National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

While Tuesday was the first time the renderings were presented to the public, the concepts for The U District have been in the works for over five years; in fact, one could even say they have been in the cards since 1957. Mayor McKennan first developed the vision for The AUD to drive people towards the area’s hotels, restaurants, and stores – placing an importance on local businesses and innovators. When The AUD opened in March of 1960, there were crowds outside of the doors, patiently waiting to see for themselves the project that was in the front of their minds since the groundbreaking nearly three years prior. And structural engineer Lev Zetlin’s ingenuity and entrepreneurial courage to create the first pre-stressed dual cable roof system has carried over throughout the past sixty years, as businesses in Bagg’s Square and downtown Utica are constantly creating space for conversation and future development. As hotels, restaurants, and shops increased, so did the need for new environments for patrons to spend their dollar and their time.

Fast forward to 2012, when Mohawk Valley Garden President Robert Esche began his efforts to bring an AHL franchise back to Utica. Esche found himself returning to those original ideas that helped to both literally and figuratively build The AUD.

“This was never solely about hockey,” Esche explained. “Hockey and The AUD were simply the catalysts for a much bigger vision, one that encompassed the surrounding area as well as the region and one that I’ve always felt has endless boundaries.”

The announcement of the Utica Comets on June 14, 2013, sparked the fire that has been steadily burning for the past four years; a fire of entrepreneurial spirit, creative innovation, and, of course, economic development. By utilizing The Western New England Law Review study, one can calculate that The AUD has had an economic impact of $48,805,135.44 since 2013; a fluid number that will increase upon completion of the West End Expansion Project. And with the concept for the Nexus Center, that number has the potential to skyrocket even further.

“While it has long been an economic driver for the region, the Utica Memorial Auditorium has taken its role as catalyst for change to a whole new level over the past five years,” Picente said. “The renovation and expansion that have, and will take place, will continue to elevate the caliber of this iconic facility, and serve as the launching pad for an Arts, Sports and Entertainment District that will completely transform downtown Utica.”

Perhaps most importantly, the Nexus Center, along with the American Craft Beer Museum and Innovation Center and Utica Commons Casino, mirror what went through the minds of many in the mid to late 1950s, when the idea for The AUD was born. While there was much to work through, and many challenges to overcome, resilient minds pushed through, and a vision became a reality.

Stay tuned for more updates on The U District! To follow along on social media, use the hashtag #ADistrictForU.