"The Jewel of Downtown Buffalo"
"The House That Jimmy Built"
|Former names||Pilot Field (1988–1995)|
Downtown Ballpark (1995)
North AmeriCare Park (1995–1999)
Dunn Tire Park (1999–2008)
Coca-Cola Field (2009–2018)
|Address||1 James D. Griffin Plaza|
Buffalo, New York
|Elevation||600 feet (180 m)|
|Public transit|| Buffalo–Exchange Street|
Washington & Seneca, Route 8
|Owner||City of Buffalo|
|Operator||Bison Baseball, Inc.|
|Record attendance||Baseball: 21,050|
(June 3, 1990 / August 30, 2002)
(June 12, 2015)
|Field size||Left field: 325 ft (99 m)|
Left-center field: 371 ft (113 m)
Center field: 404 ft (123 m)
Right-center field: 367 ft (112 m)
Right field: 325 ft (99 m)
Backstop: 55 ft (17 m)
|Acreage||13 acres (5.3 ha)|
|Broke ground||July 10, 1986|
|Opened||April 14, 1988|
|Renovated||2004, 2020, 2021|
|Construction cost||US$42.4 million|
($97.1 million in 2021 dollars)
|Project manager||Ben B. Barnert|
|Structural engineer||Geiger Associates|
|General contractor||Cowper Construction Management|
|Buffalo Bisons (AA/IL/AAAE) 1988–present|
Buffalo Nighthawks (LPBL) 1998
Buffalo Bulls (NCAA) 2000
Empire State Yankees (IL) 2012
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) 2020, 2021
Sahlen Field is a baseball park in Buffalo, New York, United States. Originally known as Pilot Field, the venue has since been named Downtown Ballpark, North AmeriCare Park, Dunn Tire Park, and Coca-Cola Field. Home to the Buffalo Bisons of the International League, it opened on April 14, 1988 and can seat up to 16,600 people, making it the highest-capacity Triple-A ballpark in the United States. It replaced the Bisons' former home, War Memorial Stadium, where the team played from 1979 to 1987.
The stadium was the first retro-classic ballpark built in the world, and was designed with plans for Major League Baseball (MLB) expansion. Buffalo had not had an MLB team since the Buffalo Blues played for the Federal League in 1915. However, Bisons owner Robert E. Rich Jr. was unsuccessful in his efforts to bring an MLB franchise to the stadium between 1988 and 1995. The stadium was a temporary home to the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB in 2020 and 2021 when they were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sahlen Field was previously home to the Buffalo Nighthawks of the Ladies Professional Baseball League in 1998, the Buffalo Bulls of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2000, and the Empire State Yankees of the International League in 2012. In addition to concerts and professional wrestling, the stadium has hosted major events including the National Old-Timers Baseball Classic (1988–1990), Triple-A All-Star Game (1988, 2012), StarGaze (1992–1993), World University Games (1993) and National Buffalo Wing Festival (2002–2019).
Buffalo began hosting professional baseball in 1877, when the Buffalo Bisons of the League Alliance began play at Riverside Park. The Buffalo Bisons (IA) joined the International Association for Professional Base Ball Players in 1878, winning the league championship in their first season.
The Buffalo Bisons (NL) then defected to the National League of Major League Baseball in 1879. The Bisons moved to Olympic Park before the 1884 season, and left Major League Baseball following the 1885 season to join the Eastern League as the Buffalo Bisons. The Eastern League was absorbed into the International League in 1887, but the league folded after a single season.
While the minor league Bisons continued play in the International Association for Professional Base Ball Players, an unaffiliated team also calling itself the Buffalo Bisons (PL) competed in the Players' League of Major League Baseball in 1890. The minor league Bisons would rejoin the Eastern League in 1891, and later join the Western League in 1899. The Western League renamed itself the American League for the 1900 season, but the Bisons were replaced by the Boston Americans when the league joined Major League Baseball prior to the 1901 season. The Bisons returned to the Eastern League, which was absorbed into the International League in 1912.
As the minor league Bisons continued play in the International League, an unaffiliated team called the Buffalo Blues competed in the Federal League of Major League Baseball in 1914 and 1915 at Federal League Park. Bison Stadium was built for the Buffalo Bisons in 1924 at a cost of $265,000, and was later renamed Offermann Stadium following the death of team owner Frank J. Offermann in 1935.
The Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League played at Offermann Stadium from 1951 to 1955. Hank Aaron was discovered while playing for the Clowns in 1952, and his contract was bought out by the Boston Braves for $10,000. Toni Stone signed with the Clowns in 1953 for $12,000, becoming the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract.
Buffalo was awarded an expansion franchise by the Continental League of Major League Baseball in January 1960, and made plans to play at War Memorial Stadium beginning with the 1961 season. However, the league folded before the season began. The Bisons remained in the International League and began play at War Memorial Stadium in 1961, as Offermann Stadium had already been slated for demolition.
In April 1968, Robert O. Swados and his investment group, which included George Steinbrenner, presented their bid for a Buffalo expansion franchise to the National League Expansion Committee. This bid included plans for a $50 million domed stadium that was designed by the architects of the Astrodome and had a capacity of 45,000. Buffalo was one of five finalists for the 1969 Major League Baseball expansion, but franchises were awarded to the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres in May 1968.
Erie County went on to modify the planned domed stadium to accommodate the Buffalo Bills, approving its construction as a 60,000-seat football venue in Lancaster that could also host baseball. However, bids for the stadium in 1970 came in over budget, and the project stalled. Bills owner Ralph Wilson threatened to move the Bills if action was not taken to replace the aging War Memorial Stadium, forcing Erie County to abandon the domed stadium in favor of building open-air Rich Stadium in Orchard Park. Major League Baseball had planned on relocating the struggling Washington Senators franchise to Buffalo, but when the domed stadium wasn't built it instead became the Texas Rangers. The Buffalo Bisons moved mid-season in 1970 and became the Winnipeg Whips, leaving Buffalo without professional baseball.
Mayor James D. Griffin and an investment group purchased the Jersey City A's of the Double-A class Eastern League for $55,000 in 1978, and the team began play as the Buffalo Bisons at War Memorial Stadium in 1979. This new franchise assumed the history of prior Buffalo Bisons teams that had played in the city from 1877 to 1970. Rich Products heir Robert E. Rich Jr. purchased the Bisons for $100,000 in 1983, and upgraded the team to the Triple-A class American Association in 1985 after buying out the Wichita Aeros for $1 million. The Bisons began drawing record crowds with innovative promotional tie-ins, most notably annual post-game concerts by The Beach Boys.
Strong political support grew to replace the aging War Memorial Stadium with what was originally known as Downtown Buffalo Sports Complex. The City of Buffalo originally hired HOK Sport to design a $90 million domed stadium with a capacity of 40,000 on 13 acres of land, but the project was scaled back after New York State only approved $22.5 million in funding instead of the $40 million requested. A separate athletic facility to service the City Campus of Erie Community College was part of the proposed complex, and was eventually built several years later as the Burt Flickinger Center.
St. John's Episcopal Church originally occupied what would become the venue's land at the corner of Washington Street and Swan Street, and Randall's Boarding House originally occupied the adjacent lot on Swan Street. Mark Twain famously was a resident of the boarding house while editor of the Buffalo Express. Constructed between 1846 and 1848 on land donated by Joseph Ellicott, the church remained in use until 1893 and was demolished in 1906. The land then became the site of Ellsworth Statler's first hotel, Hotel Statler, in 1907. It was later renamed Hotel Buffalo after Statler built a new hotel on Niagara Square in 1923 and sold his former location. Hotel Buffalo was demolished in 1968, and the land became a parking lot. The City of Buffalo would later acquire the land through eminent domain.
HOK Sport (now known as Populous) designed the downtown venue as the first retro-classic ballpark in the world. The open-air venue was designed to incorporate architecture from the neighboring Joseph Ellicott Historic District, most notably the Ellicott Square Building and Old Post Office. The venue's exterior would be constructed from precast concrete, featuring arched window openings at the mezzanine level, rusticated joints, and inset marble panels. Located in close proximity to Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and along the newly built Buffalo Metro Rail, the venue would be an attractive and accessible destination for suburban residents. The same design firm would later bring this concept to Major League Baseball with Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The baseball field itself would feature a Kentucky Bluegrass playing surface and have dimensions that were designed to mirror those of pitcher-friendly Royals Stadium. Bisons management insisted the field have deep fences after War Memorial Stadium acquired a poor reputation for allowing easy home runs. Roger Bossard, head groundskeeper of Comiskey Park, served as consultant for the project.
The venue broke ground in July 1986, with structural engineering handled by Geiger Associates, and Cowper Construction Management serving as general contractor. It was originally built with a seating capacity of 19,500, which at the time made it the third-largest stadium in Minor League Baseball. This included a club level with 38 luxury suites and seating for 3,500, general admission bleacher seating for 1,130 in right field, and a 300-seat restaurant with city and field views on the mezzanine level. Rich Products already owned and operated local restaurants under their B.R. Guest brand, and they assumed operation of the venue's restaurant and concessions.
The $42.4 million venue was mainly paid for with public funding. $22.5 million came from New York State, $12.9 million came from the City of Buffalo, $4.2 million came from Erie County, and $2.8 million came from the Buffalo Bisons. The New York State funding was contingent on the Bisons signing a 20-year lease with the City of Buffalo for use of the venue, which they did just prior to groundbreaking. The City of Buffalo and Erie County paid an additional $14 million for the construction of parking garages to service the venue and other downtown businesses.
A planned second phase of construction was a seating expansion contingent on Buffalo acquiring a Major League Baseball franchise. The original design by HOK Sport called for a third deck to be added in place of the roof, expanding the venue's capacity from 19,500 to 40,000. In May 1987, it was estimated this expansion could be completed within one offseason at a cost of $15 million.
The venue opened in April 1988 and was lauded by mainstream media outlets, including feature stories by Newsday, New York Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Magazine and Vancouver Sun. Eric Brazil wrote that month in his San Francisco Examiner article that the venue, "just may be baseball's prototype for the 1990s and beyond".
In their first year at the venue after moving from War Memorial Stadium, the Buffalo Bisons broke the all-time record for Minor League Baseball attendance by drawing 1,186,651 fans during the 1988 season. The team had capped season ticket sales at 9,000 seats to ensure that individual game tickets would be available.
In anticipation of Buffalo being awarded a major league franchise, Robert E. Rich Jr. began establishing minor league farm teams for the Bisons organization. Rich Jr. acquired the Double-A Wichita Pilots in October 1988 and founded the Class A Short Season Niagara Falls Rapids in June 1989. He renamed Wichita's team to the Wranglers and planned to upgrade their franchise to Triple-A upon the Bisons joining Major League Baseball.
For the 1989 season, a 60-foot tall chain-link fence was erected in left field to prevent motor vehicles on Oak Street from being struck by home runs.
Pete McMartin wrote fondly of the venue in his June 1989 article for the Vancouver Sun, contrasting it with the recently opened SkyDome in Toronto:
I have seen the future of baseball and it looks a lot like the past. The best new ballpark in North America looks like the best old ballpark in North America. Forget SkyDome. Pilot Field, home to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons baseball club, makes Toronto's newest toy look like a crass gimmick. It dares to offer the revolutionary concept of playing baseball on grass, open to the elements. And it does it in the prettiest playground in the game. Built last year for $42 million, (compared to SkyDome's half-billion), Pilot Field resembles a turn-of-the-century ballpark complete with soaring archways, exposed girders, palladian windows, and a copper-green metal roof above the stands topped with two cupolas. Its concrete facade has been "rusticated" to resemble the limestone walls of the heritage buildings in the downtown neighborhood that surround it. Pilot Field is so wildly popular with the citizens of Buffalo that it has helped rejuvenate Buffalo's once-decaying downtown. It was a matter of philosophy. Toronto built an edifice: Buffalo embraced an idea. Toronto elevated technology over the game: Buffalo honored the past. Buffalo ended up with the better ballpark. It may be the best ballpark built since the construction of the game's holy triumvirate - Wrigley, Fenway and Briggs.
The proposed seating expansion to accommodate Major League Baseball was revised by HOK Sport in November 1989 to preserve the aesthetic of the roof, which would now be kept and raised to cover a third deck. In this new design, less seating would be built on the third deck, and instead a new right field seating structure would be built in front of the Exchange Street parking ramp. In addition, expanded bleachers would be added in right field that could later be converted to permanent seating. Capacity after this expansion would increase from 19,500 to 41,530 at a cost of $30 million, but unlike the earlier design would take longer than a single offseason to complete.
Prior to the 1990 season, 1,400 bleacher seats and a standing-room only area within the third-base mezzanine were added at a cost of $1.34 million, increasing the stadium's capacity from 19,500 to 21,050.
The inaugural Build New York Award was given to Cowper Construction Management in April 1990 by the General Building Contractors of New York State for their work on the venue.
In September 1990, Bob Rich Jr. attempted to buy the Montreal Expos for $100 million and move the team to Buffalo, but owner Charles Bronfman declined his offer.
Rich Jr. and his investment group presented their bid for a Buffalo expansion franchise to the National League Expansion Committee in September 1990. Members of this investment group included Jeremy Jacobs, Larry King, Northrup R. Knox, Robert G. Wilmers, Robert O. Swados and Seymour H. Knox III. It was reported that the investment group was prepared to fund $134 million in private capital required for expansion, which included the $95 million franchise fee and initial operating costs. The largest share of the financial burden would fall on Rich Jr., who pledged a minimum of $10 million cash and the equity in his three minor league teams. Rich Jr. publicly voiced concerns in December 1990 that without a salary cap and revenue sharing, he would have to raise ticket prices to unaffordable levels while being unable to produce a competitive on-field product. 27,000 major league season ticket commitments were made by April 1991, including sales of 18,000 seat deposits, and complimentary deposits awarded to the existing 9,000 Bisons season ticket holders. Buffalo was one of six finalists for the 1993 Major League Baseball expansion, but franchises were awarded to the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins in June 1991. National League president Bill White later confirmed that Rich Jr. publicly questioning the league's financial structure sunk his bid.
In their fourth year at the stadium, the Bisons once again broke the all-time record for Minor League Baseball attendance by drawing 1,240,951 fans during the 1991 season.
Rich Jr. offered to let the Montreal Expos finish their home schedule at the venue in September 1991 after Olympic Stadium was damaged, but the team instead played their final 13 home games on the road.
|All-Time Minor League Baseball Attendance Records|
|10.||Sacramento River Cats||2001||901,214|
In June 1992, Rich Jr. attempted to buy the San Francisco Giants and move the team to Buffalo, but owner Bob Lurie declined his offer. The proposed name for the team would have been the New York Giants of Buffalo, as the franchise had previously played as the New York Giants from 1885 to 1957 in New York City. That same month, the City of Buffalo chose to exercise an escape clause and buy back $24.2 million in federal bonds they had earmarked for expanding the venue to accommodate Major League Baseball.
Prior to the 1994 season, a restaurant called Power Alley Pub was constructed under the bleachers in right-center field. The restaurant provided seating with views of the field through the outfield wall.
Rich Jr. moved his Class A Short Season Niagara Falls Rapids after he was unable to secure repairs for the aging Sal Maglie Stadium. The team resumed play as the Jamestown Jammers in June 1994.
In July 1994, Rich Jr. notified the Major League Baseball Expansion Committee that he was interested in pursuing a Buffalo expansion franchise. However, he would retract this notification the following month after the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike commenced. Buffalo was withdrawn as a candidate for the 1998 Major League Baseball expansion, and franchises were awarded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in March 1995.
Rich Jr. was offered an expansion franchise by the United Baseball League of Major League Baseball in November 1994 at a cost of $5 million, which would have played at the venue beginning with the 1996 season. However, franchises were awarded in February 1995 to Long Island, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Juan, Vancouver and Washington before the league folded without ever playing a game.
The Bisons considered sharing the venue with the Toronto Blue Jays for their 1995 season, as the Ontario Labour Relations Board prohibited non-union replacement players from competing at SkyDome during the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike. The Blue Jays instead chose to play at their spring training home of Dunedin Stadium, but the strike ended in April 1995 and the team returned to SkyDome.
For the 1996 season, a new outfield fence was erected within the venue at a cost of $50,000 so the baseball field mirrored the dimensions of Jacobs Field. Left-center field was reduced from 384 feet to 371 feet, center field was reduced from 410 feet to 404 feet, right-center field was reduced from 384 feet to 367 feet, and the height of the center field fence was reduced from 15 feet to 8 feet. This change allowed the Cleveland Indians, Buffalo's major league affiliate, to better evaluate their prospects, while also making the park more hitter-friendly.
The venue was home to the Buffalo Nighthawks of the Ladies Professional Baseball League before the league shut down mid-season in July 1998. The Nighthawks were in first place with an 11–5 record when the league folded, and were declared Eastern Division champions.
The park's original four-color dot matrix scoreboard in center field was retrofitted with a 38-foot wide by 19-foot tall Daktronics LED video screen in 1999 at a cost of $1.2 million.
The venue was home to the Buffalo Bulls of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2000. The Bulls finished the season with a 12–35 record and moved to Amherst Audubon Field the following year.
Robert E. Rich Jr. planned to purchase a Major League Lacrosse franchise at a cost of $1 million to begin play at the venue in June 2001. However, he withdrew support after determining that removing and replacing the pitcher's mound for lacrosse games would damage the field and put the Bisons at a disadvantage.
The 20-year lease between the Bisons and City of Buffalo for use of the venue was renegotiated in January 2003, with the addition of funding from Erie County.
Prior to the 2004 season, $5 million in renovations to the venue were completed, including removal of the stadium's right field bleachers and construction of a four-tier Party Deck in its place. The removal of the bleachers decreased the stadium capacity from 21,050 to 18,025.
For the 2007 season, a 4-foot wide by 8-foot tall digital billboard was installed on the corner of Washington Street and Swan Street at a cost of $70,000.
Rich Jr. moved his Double-A Wichita Wranglers after attendance dwindled at Lawrence–Dumont Stadium due to the popularity of the Wichita State Shockers. The team resumed play as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in April 2008.
The 20-year lease between the Bisons and City of Buffalo for use of the venue expired following the 2008 season, and the city began offering year-to-year leases to the team thereafter.
The venue's luxury suites were consolidated and renovated beginning in 2010, reducing the total number from 38 to 26. A conference suite was constructed on the first-base side of the stadium at a cost of $250,000, and the year-round suite can accommodate business gatherings of up to 40 people.
For the 2011 season, the park's original scoreboard in center field was removed and replaced by an 80-foot wide by 33-foot tall Daktronics high-definition LED video screen at a cost $2.5 million. That same year, a new $970,000 field drainage system and a new $750,000 field lighting system were added to the venue.
The venue was home to the Empire State Yankees of the International League in 2012. The team was forced to play at alternate sites that season as PNC Field was undergoing renovations. The Yankees finished the season with a 84–60 record and advanced to the International League playoffs.
For the 2014 season, $500,000 was spent in improvements to the venue, including a new sound system and the installation of new LED message boards down both baselines.
A campaign to replace the park's original red seating with wider green seating began in 2014. The stadium's capacity was reduced from 18,025 to 17,600 when 3,700 seats were replaced prior to the 2015 season at a cost of $758,000. 2,900 seats were replaced prior to the 2017 season, reducing capacity of the venue from 17,600 to 16,907. 2,000 seats were replaced prior to the 2019 season, reducing capacity of the venue from 16,907 to 16,600.
Rich Jr. moved his Class A Short Season Jamestown Jammers after attendance dwindled at Russell Diethrick Park. The team resumed play as the West Virginia Black Bears in June 2015.
Following the 2019 season, protective crowd netting was installed throughout the venue at a cost of $475,000 to meet Major League Baseball safety standards.
In June 2020, the Bisons cancelled their season at the venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Toronto Blue Jays, the Bisons' major league affiliate, announced the following month that they would play their 2020 season at the venue after the government of Canada denied them permission to play at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays finished the season with a 32–28 record, and advanced to the American League Wild Card Series. A Blue Jays locker from the stadium was preserved as an artifact in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Major League Baseball and the Blue Jays organization jointly funded renovations of the venue prior to the 2020 season at a cost of $5 million. Permanent upgrades included installation of LED field lighting, installation of instant replay technology, installation of Hawk-Eye for Statcast tracking, a resurfaced infield, and relocation of the home dugout to the third-base side of the stadium. Temporary facilities designed for the postponed MLB at Field of Dreams game were also utilized.
The Blue Jays once again used the venue for their 2021 season due to the ongoing pandemic, after having started the season at TD Ballpark. The Bisons accommodated this residency by relocating to Trenton Thunder Ballpark in Trenton, New Jersey. The venue drew higher attendance for MLB home games than the Miami Marlins, Oakland A's and Tampa Bay Rays drew at their own home venues. The Blue Jays returned to Rogers Centre in July, allowing the Bisons to return home in August.
The Bisons and Blue Jays jointly funded additional renovations of the venue prior to the 2021 season. These permanent upgrades included the installation of new light standards, new batting cages, new foul poles, a resurfaced outfield, and the relocation of both bullpens from foul territory to right-center field. The renovated venue was named Professional Baseball Field of the Year in November 2021 by Sports Turf Managers Association. The renovations were also nominated for Project of the Year at the 2021 Stadium Business Awards.
Pilot Air Freight of Philadelphia purchased the 20-year naming rights to the venue in 1986. The stadium would be named Pilot Field in exchange for the company paying the City of Buffalo $51,000 on an annual basis. Their name was stripped from the venue by the City of Buffalo in March 1995 after defaulting on payments.
The stadium was then known as Downtown Ballpark until July 1995, when local HMO North AmeriCare purchased the naming rights and the stadium became North AmeriCare Park (colloquially known as The NAP). North AmeriCare agreed to pay the City of Buffalo $3.3 million over the course of 13 years. The Dunn Tire chain of tire outlets assumed North AmeriCare's remaining contract with the City of Buffalo in May 1999, and the venue became Dunn Tire Park.
Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Buffalo purchased the 10-year naming rights to the stadium in December 2008, and it was renamed Coca-Cola Field for the 2009 season. Local meat packing company Sahlen's purchased the 10-year naming rights to the stadium in October 2018, and it was renamed Sahlen Field for the 2019 season.
Opening Day of the venue's inaugural season took place on April 14, 1988, and saw the Buffalo Bisons defeat the Denver Zephyrs 1–0. Bob Patterson of the Bisons threw the first pitch against Billy Bates, and the lone score came from a Tom Prince home run. Pam Postema, the first female umpire in the history of professional baseball, officiated the game. Prior to the event, The Oak Ridge Boys performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" and both Mayor James D. Griffin and Governor Mario Cuomo threw ceremonial first pitches.
The formal dedication of the venue took place on May 21, 1988 prior to the Bisons defeating the Syracuse Chiefs in an interleague Triple-A Alliance game by a score of 6–5. Larry King threw the ceremonial first pitch and sat in on commentary with WBEN broadcasters Pete Weber and John Murphy.
The seventh-annual National Old-Timers Baseball Classic was held at the venue on June 20, 1988. The event aired on ESPN and saw the National League defeat the American League 8–2.
The venue was host to the inaugural Triple-A All-Star Game on July 13, 1988. The event aired live on ESPN and saw a team of American League-affiliated players defeat a team of National League-affiliated players 2–1. Pam Postema officiated the game. Celebrity appearances were made by Morganna, the Kissing Bandit and Spuds MacKenzie.
The eighth-annual National Old-Timers Baseball Classic was held at the venue on June 19, 1989. The event aired on ESPN and saw the National League defeat the American League 8–7.
The June 3, 1990 game between the Buffalo Bisons and Oklahoma City 89ers, with a post-game concert by The Beach Boys, set the all-time single-game attendance record for baseball at the venue with 21,050 fans. The Bisons lost the game 7–6.
The ninth-annual National Old-Timers Baseball Classic was held at the venue on June 25, 1990. The event aired on ESPN and saw the National League defeat the American League 3–0. Prior to the event, Robert Merrill performed "The Star-Spangled Banner".
An exhibition between the Bisons and their Major League Baseball affiliate Pittsburgh Pirates took place at the venue on May 9, 1991 and saw the Bisons win the game 4–2. Barry Bonds became the first player in the venue's history to hit a home run to center field during a pregame home run derby.
The venue hosted an exhibition between Team USA and Korea at the venue on July 9, 1992 that saw Korea win the game 4–2. The exhibition was part of Team USA's 30-game tour of both Cuba and the United States to promote their appearance in the 1992 Summer Olympics.
An exhibition between the Bisons and their Major League Baseball affiliate Pittsburgh Pirates took place at the venue on May 6, 1993 and saw the Bisons win the game 3–2.
The baseball events of the World University Games were held at the venue in July 1993. The Gold medal game took place on July 16, 1993 and saw Cuba defeat South Korea 7–1.
A viral video of Rich Aude pimping his walk-off home run to end the May 8, 1994 game at the venue between the Bisons and Louisville Redbirds was covered by media outlets including Deadspin and MLB.com.
An exhibition between the Bisons and their Major League Baseball affiliate Cleveland Indians took place at the venue on April 25, 1995 and saw the Indians win the game 2–1.
A May 4, 1995 game between the Buffalo Bisons and Iowa Cubs was the first-ever Triple-A game broadcast live by ESPN2. The Bisons lost this morning game, their annual School Kids Day promotion, by a score of 5–1.
Celebration of Baseball, an Old-Timers Game to benefit the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association was held at the venue on June 17, 1995.
The all-female Colorado Silver Bullets lost an exhibition to the all-male Queen City Rockers at the venue on July 7, 1995 by a score of 2–1.
An exhibition between the Bisons and their Major League Baseball affiliate Cleveland Indians took place at the venue on June 24, 1996 and ended in a 3–3 tie.
Bartolo Colón of the Bisons threw the venue's first and only no-hitter on June 20, 1997 against the New Orleans Zephyrs, sealing a 4–0 win.
The Buffalo Bulls completed 6 double plays during their 4–3 loss to the Stony Brook Seawolves at the venue on May 7, 2000, setting a franchise record and tying the NCAA Division I record for second-most double plays in a single game.
The venue was host to the Adam's Mark Celebrity Old-Timers Classic event on July 15, 2000.
An exhibition between the Bisons and their Major League Baseball affiliate Cleveland Indians took place at the venue on July 1, 2002 and saw the Indians win the game 4–3.
An August 30, 2002, game between the Bisons and the Rochester Red Wings matched the all-time single-game attendance record for baseball at the venue with 21,050 fans. The Bisons won the game 5–0.
The venue hosted the inaugural Big Four Baseball Classic tournament from April 27, 2004 to April 28, 2004. In the championship game, the Niagara Purple Eagles defeated the St. Bonaventure Bonnies 8–7 in extra innings to win the Bisons Cup.
The Bisons defeated the Richmond Braves at the venue on September 17, 2004 in Game 4 of their championship series to win the Governors' Cup by a score of 6–1.
The venue hosted the second-annual Big Four Baseball Classic tournament from April 26, 2005 to April 27, 2005. In the championship game, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 12–3 to win the Bisons Cup.
The venue hosted the inaugural Robert E. Rich Memorial Baseball Classic tournament from April 22, 2006 to April 24, 2006. In the championship game, the Bishop Timon – St. Jude Tigers defeated the Canisius Crusaders to win the Robert E. Rich Cup.
The venue hosted the second-annual Robert E. Rich Memorial Baseball Classic tournament from April 27, 2007 to April 29, 2007. In the championship game, the Williamsville North Spartans defeated the Clarence Red Devils 9–8 to win the Robert E. Rich Cup.
The venue hosted the third-annual Robert E. Rich Memorial Baseball Classic tournament from April 19, 2008 to April 20, 2008. In the championship game, the St. Mary's Lancers defeated the St. Francis Red Raiders 5–3 to win the Robert E. Rich Cup.
A June 3, 2010 game between the Bisons and Syracuse Chiefs was promoted as the final Triple-A appearance of Stephen Strasburg; he led the Chiefs to a 7–1 victory over the Bisons in the first-ever baseball game broadcast on Versus.
The Triple-A home run derby took place at the venue on July 9, 2012 and was won by Bisons player Valentino Pascucci, with a celebrity home run derby preceding it won by Rob Gronkowski.
The venue was host to the 25th-annual Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11, 2012, in which the Pacific Coast League defeated the International League 3–0 in an event broadcast live on MLB Network.
The venue's first Major League Baseball game took place on August 11, 2020, in which the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Miami Marlins 5–4 in extra innings.
The Toronto Blue Jays clinched their eighth playoff birth in franchise history by defeating the New York Yankees at the venue on September 24, 2020 by a score of 4–1.
Alek Manoah set a new Blue Jays franchise record of 7 consecutive strikeouts during their 11–1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at the venue on July 2, 2021.
Jonah Heim of the Texas Rangers became the first Buffalo native in 130 years to play a major league game in his hometown in their 10–2 loss to the Blue Jays at the venue on July 16, 2021. John Gillespie of the Buffalo Bisons was the last player from Buffalo to do so on October 1, 1890.
The final Toronto Blue Jays game at the venue on July 21, 2021 was a 7–4 loss to the Boston Red Sox. This marked the 49th Major League Baseball game at the venue, tying Hiram Bithorn Stadium for the all-time record of most regular season games hosted by a non-home ballpark.
Jim Kelly held his inaugural Jim Kelly Shootout and Carnival of Stars charity event at the venue on June 7, 1992. The event drew a crowd of 14,500 and raised $150,000 for the Kelly for Kids Foundation.
The second-annual Jim Kelly charity event, now renamed StarGaze, was held at the venue on June 13, 1993. The event drew a crowd of 10,000 and raised $100,000 for the Kelly for Kids Foundation.
The venue hosted a charity softball game between local dignitaries and Buffalo sporting legends as part of festivities for the New York State Democratic Convention on May 31, 1994.
Michael Bolton brought his Bolton Bombers softball team to the venue for a charity game against local media on September 3, 1994.
Nabisco promoted a charity softball game at the venue between a team of baseball legends managed by Yogi Berra and employees from a local Wal-Mart on August 5, 2000. The Nabisco All-Stars defeated the Wal-Mart employees 22–6.
Micah Hyde held his inaugural Micah Hyde Charity Softball Game at the venue on June 2, 2019. The event drew a crowd of 2,500 and raised $40,000 for the Imagine for Youth Foundation.
The second-annual Micah Hyde Charity Softball Game on May 15, 2022 drew a crowd of 10,000 and raised $200,000 for the Imagine for Youth Foundation, with a portion of proceeds donated to families of 2022 Buffalo shooting victims.
Ballpark Brawl was a series of post-game professional wrestling events produced by the Buffalo Bisons and promoted by Christopher Hill, their Director of Sales and Marketing between 2003 and 2007. The promotion's Natural Heavyweight Championship paid homage to The Natural, which was filmed in Buffalo at War Memorial Stadium.
The inaugural Ballpark Brawl was headlined by Jeff Jarrett and Sabu defeating Disco Inferno and Raven on August 24, 2003.
Ballpark Brawl II: Field of Screams was headlined by Al Snow defeating Chris Candido on July 17, 2004.
Ballpark Brawl III: Canadian Carnage was headlined by AJ Styles defeating Sabu and Teddy Hart to become the inaugural Natural Heavyweight Champion on August 14, 2004.
Ballpark Brawl IV: fridaynightSMASH was headlined by Christopher Daniels defeating AJ Styles to become Natural Heavyweight Champion on July 15, 2005.
Ballpark Brawl V: Bang! Bang! Have a Nice Day! was headlined by The Sandman defeating Sabu, with Mick Foley as the guest referee, on August 13, 2005.
Ballpark Brawl VI: Rochester Rumble took place at Frontier Field and was headlined by a 20-man battle royal on August 14, 2005.
Ballpark Brawl VII: Survival of the Fittest was headlined by Samoa Joe defeating Christopher Daniels, Homicide and Low Ki to become Natural Heavyweight Champion on August 27, 2006.
Ballpark Brawl VIII was headlined by Sterling James Keenan defeating Rikishi and Samoa Joe to become Natural Heavyweight Champion on August 23, 2007.
TNA Wrestling held their unrelated BaseBrawl event at the venue on June 18, 2011 that was headlined by Kurt Angle defeating Scott Steiner, and an appearance by Hulk Hogan.
TNA Wrestling held a second BaseBrawl event at the venue on June 22, 2012 that was headlined by Bobby Roode defeating Jeff Hardy to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
An ice skating rink was erected in the venue's outfield by the Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce for Winterfest III from January 26, 1989 to February 12, 1989.
Opening Ceremonies for the Empire State Games took place at the venue on July 24, 1996. Buffalo native Todd Marchant was the event's keynote speaker.
The venue was host to the annual Drum Corps International Tour of Champions, promoted locally as Drums Along the Waterfront, from its inception in 1997 to 2006.
The venue hosted watch parties for Buffalo Sabres games during the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, with proceeds going to local charities.
Major League Lacrosse staged an exhibition at the venue on August 11, 2000 as part of their Summer Showcase Tour. The venue's first-ever field lacrosse game aired on Fox Sports Net and saw the Americans defeat the Nationals 18–16.
The venue was host to the annual National Buffalo Wing Festival, featuring the U.S. National Buffalo Wing Eating Championship, from its inception in 2002 to 2019.
The inaugural Harvard Cup Hall of Fame Game took place at the venue on September 28, 2002. The Kensington Knights defeated the Bennett Tigers 26–0 in the venue's first-ever football game.
The second-annual Harvard Cup Hall of Fame Game took place at the venue as a doubleheader on September 20, 2003. The Lafayette Violets defeated the Grover Cleveland Presidents 28–6, and the Hutch-Tech Engineers defeated the McKinley Macks 14–0.
The venue hosted watch parties for Buffalo Sabres games during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, raising $15,000 for local charities.
The U.S. National Buffalo Wing Eating Championship was broadcast live from the venue by ESPN3 on August 31, 2014. The Major League Eating sanctioned competition was part of the National Buffalo Wing Festival and won by Joey Chestnut.
The Bisons annually transformed the venue into a publicly accessible 9-hole golf course called The Links from 2016 to 2019.
Nitro Circus brought their You Got This Tour, an extreme sports exhibition, to the venue on May 24, 2019.
The Buffalo Bisons have presented a yearly post-game Summer Concert Series at the venue since 1988. The Summer Concert Series has included headlining performances by Aretha Franklin (1991), Bill Cosby (1997), Bo Diddley (1990), Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (1995–2019, 2022), Chicago (1990, 1994), Chubby Checker (1992), Eddie Rabbitt (1988), Fleetwood Mac (1995), Foreigner (1994), Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (1990), Gloria Estefan (1988), Huey Lewis and the News (1991), Kansas (1996–1997), KC and the Sunshine Band (1995), Kenny Rogers (1996),  Loverboy (1997), Michael McDonald (1992), Reba McEntire (1993), Styx (1996), The Beach Boys (1988–1995, 2000–2001), The Doobie Brothers (1994), The Jets (1990), The Monkees (2001), The Temptations (1989), The Turtles (1992), Tommy James (1992), Tony Bennett (1999), Village People (1995) and Willie Nelson (1989).
The Budweiser Superfest music festival took place at the venue on July 7, 1989 and included performances by Guy, Kool Moe Dee and New Edition.
The Bluestime Jam music festival took place at the venue on August 29, 1995 and included performances by B.B. King, Etta James and Jimmie Vaughan.
The third-annual WEDG Edgefest music festival took place at the venue on June 28, 1997 and included performances by Buck-O-Nine, David Usher, Goo Goo Dolls, Moist, Saturn Battery, Sloan, Tugboat Annie and Weezer.
WKSE presented their annual Kiss the Summer Hello music festival at the venue from 2001 to 2002, and again from 2009 to 2013. Kiss the Summer Hello included headlining performances by 98 Degrees (2001), Ashanti (2002), Carly Rae Jepsen (2012), Emblem3 (2013), New Boyz (2010), The Veronicas (2009) and Travie McCoy (2011).
WYRK has presented their annual Taste of Country music festival at the venue since its inception in 2001. The June 12, 2015 event headlined by Dierks Bentley set the all-time attendance record for concerts at the venue with 27,000 fans.
WEDG staged their tenth-annual Edgefest music festival at the venue on May 30, 2003 and it included performances by Cold, Finch, Hed PE, Klear, Powerman 5000, Seether, Smile Empty Soul, Staind, The Juliana Theory and Trapt.
The Great Guitar Gig took place at the venue on June 15, 2003 as part of the second-annual Buffalo Niagara Guitar Festival and included performances by California Guitar Trio, Chris McHardy, Doug Yeaomans, Hubert Sumlin, Jim Weider, Johnny Hiland, Larry Coryell, Murali Coryell, Savoy Brown, Sid McGinnis and The Yardbirds.
Counting Crows headlined a show at the venue on August 1, 2007 as part of their Rock 'n' Roll Triple Play Ballpark Tour. They were supported by Collective Soul and Live.
Reverend Billy Graham staged his Greater Buffalo-Niagara Crusade at the venue from August 1, 1988 to August 7, 1988.
Paul Maguire broadcast the Sixth Anniversary edition of Budweiser Sportsline live from Pettibone's Grille on April 4, 1989.
Governor Mario Cuomo and Mickey Mantle spoke at an anti-drug rally outside the venue on August 22, 1989.
Goo Goo Dolls filmed the music video for their debut single "There You Are" at the venue in 1990.
Artist Jenny Holzer commandeered the venue's center field scoreboard in July 1991 to display her famed Truisms. She was in town to promote the opening of her Venice installation at the Albright–Knox Art Gallery.
Pettibone's Grille served as local GOP headquarters for Election Night on November 3, 1992. Jack Quinn upset Dennis Gorski that night to win a seat in New York's 30th congressional district, and he gave his victory speech from the venue.
A low-budget film called Angel Blues was shot at the venue in August 1993. It was directed by William Zabka and starred Michael Paloma, Loryn Locklin, Meredith Salenger, Richard Moll, David Johansen and Michael Horse.
Nickelodeon brought their U Pick Nick! live tour to the venue on August 10, 1996. The event featured games and stunts from Family Double Dare, Global GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple and What Would You Do?.
The Fabulous Sports Babe made a promotional appearance for WGR at Pettibone's Grille on February 15, 1997.
Tim Wendel appeared as part of a Bistro Bookers book club event at Pettibone's Grille to discuss his novel Castro's Curveball on October 10, 2000.
The Jim Rome Show brought its live tour to the venue on July 28, 2001, drawing a crowd of 12,000. The free event was co-hosted by Jay Mohr and featured appearances by Eric Moulds, Rob Johnson, Ruben Brown and Scotty Bowman.
Reverend Franklin Graham staged his Evangelical outreach and music festival Rock the Lakes at the venue from September 22, 2012 to September 23, 2012.
Harry Scull, Jr. of The Buffalo News won the National Press Photographers Association Regional Clip Contest in the New York/International Region for his photo of a lightning strike taken during a rain delay at the venue's August 15, 2020 game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays.
Zack Hample documented his visits to the venue during the 2020–2021 Toronto Blue Jays residency in multiple YouTube vlogs.
Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his daily COVID-19 briefing from Pub at the Park on May 12, 2021 to announce policies for fans attending Toronto Blue Jays games.
Staffers of Mayor Byron Brown staged a demonstration outside the venue on June 24, 2021 following Brown's loss to India Walton in the Democratic primary. Brown was throwing the ceremonial first pitch prior to that day's Toronto Blue Jays game.
Crosby Spencer of RotoFanatic detailed the dimensions of Sahlen Field after the venue earned a hitter-friendly reputation during the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays season:
Sahlen Field’s center field sits facing South-Southeast with an 8 to 10 MPH breeze prevailing out from the right field foul pole to the left field foul pole all year long. Both the left field and right fields angle back from a 325 foot foul pole before squaring off at the power alleys (371 ft. LCF and 367 ft. RCF). The alleys then angle back inward forming a pointed A-Frame center field at 404 ft. Sahlen Field most resembles Nationals Park’s shape but it’s 12 feet shorter to left, 6 feet shorter to left-center, 2 feet deeper to center, 3 feet shorter to right-center and 10 feet shorter to right. Sahlen Field has definitely played as a very interesting park thus far. Despite the fact that left and left-center are the most offensively friendly fields it’s the left handed batters that have thrived the most. This does make some sense. The prevailing winds are out to left and opposite field balls are typically hit on a higher trajectory than pulled balls. This higher trajectory and steady winds gives the ball a chance to fly further than normal. Couple that with the friendly confines of 325 feet to left and 371 feet to the left-center alley and you have a recipe that serves up the number one ranked home run and RBIcon factors for left handed batters in all of baseball.
Pub at the Park is a bar and restaurant located within the venue's first-base mezzanine that features both indoor seating and outdoor patio seating with views of the field. It is open to the public for special events via an entrance on Washington Street, and exclusively to ticketholders with reservations on game days. The restaurant was formerly known as Pettibone's Grille from 1988 to 2016.
Concessions around the venue's concourse highlight local cuisine, with selections including beef on weck from Charlie the Butcher, craft beer from Consumer's Beverages, craft beer and wine from Southern Tier Brewing Company, hot dogs from Sahlen's, ice cream from Nick Charlap's, pizza from La Nova Pizzeria, pizza logs from Original Pizza Logs, and soft serve from Upstate Farms. Coca-Cola brand soft drinks and Dunkin' brand coffee and iced coffee are also available throughout the stadium.
The venue supports contactless payment and online food ordering with mobile payment.
The Buffalo Bisons have customarily marked the landing spot of every home run their players have hit into the right field parking lot since the venue's inaugural season in 1988. This feat is rarely accomplished because the balls have had to clear either the right field bleachers or the Party Deck that replaced them in order to reach the parking lot. Russell Branyan holds the record for most parking lot home runs, with three.
The original flag pole from center field at War Memorial Stadium was preserved and installed at the venue in July 1990. It can be found behind the Party Deck in right field, on land adjacent to the parking ramp.
Robert E. Rich Sr., the founder of Rich Products and father of Buffalo Bisons owner Robert E. Rich Jr., died in February 2006. His initials are inscribed on the press box, above the owner's suite, in tribute.
Former Mayor of Buffalo James D. Griffin was posthumously honored by the Buffalo Common Council in July 2008 after they voted to change the venue's address to One James D. Griffin Plaza. A bronze sculpture of Griffin titled The First Pitch, referencing his ceremonial first pitch at the venue's inaugural game, was unveiled outside the stadium in August 2012. The William Koch piece was commissioned by the Buffalo Bisons to honor Griffin's contributions in constructing the ballpark and bringing professional baseball back to Buffalo.
Plaques honoring all members of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame are on permanent display within the Hall of Fame and Heritage Room, which was built on the venue's third-base concourse in 2013. The Heritage Room also contains rotating exhibits of memorabilia that honor Buffalo's baseball history. It is open to ticketholders one hour prior to the first pitch on gamedays, and stays open through the third inning.
The Bisons hang a Championship Corner banner in left field that commemorates the team's many league and division championships, along with the retired numbers of Ollie Carnegie (6), Luke Easter (25), Jeff Manto (30) and Jackie Robinson (42).
Retired numbers of former Toronto Blue Jays players Roberto Alomar (12) and Roy Halladay (32), along with the retired number of Jackie Robinson (42), were inscribed above the venue's press box for the 2020 season. In addition, the number of former Toronto Blue Jays player Tony Fernández (1) was inscribed on the venue's outfield fence to honor his recent passing.
Sahlen Field is located at the Elm Street exit (Exit 6) of Interstate 190, and within one mile of both the Oak Street exit of Route 33 and the Seneca Street exit of Route 5.
A 816-space Allpro parking ramp is located behind right field on Exchange Street, and a 457-space Allpro parking garage with charging station is located under the Seneca One Tower complex. The ramp and garage are connected by a pedestrian bridge over Washington Street. Multiple surface parking lots are also in the stadium's vicinity.
The venue is publicly served by Seneca Station of Buffalo Metro Rail, located one block West of the venue on Main Street. It is also served by Buffalo–Exchange Street station of Amtrak, located directly across from the venue on Exchange Street.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority maintains the Washington & Seneca bus stop located directly outside the venue's Seneca Street entrance, providing local service on Route 8 between downtown Buffalo and University Station. Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center is located two blocks North of the venue on Ellicott Street and provides intercity bus service.
Reddy Bikeshare maintains an automated station at the corner of Washington Street and Swan Street.