Despite spending most of their 125-plus-year history as a minor-league organization, the Bisons were a major-league club from 1879 to 1885. All told, nearly 3,000 players and managers have donned the Bisons uniform, including 20 who have been immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Currently, the Bisons compete every summer for an International League title, as well as the Thruway Cup—a regional and bragging-rights-based trophy chased by the Bisons, the Rochester Red Wings, and the Syracuse Chiefs. The Bisons have played half of their games since 1988 at Coca-Cola Field, which boasts the largest video board in the minors and an infield kept moist by hoses that spray water and not the soda that the field’s name would suggest.
Surrounded by roaring crowds of hoops fanatics, the Erie BayHawks shoot for glory during thrilling basketball matches as the official minor-league team of the New York Knicks in the NBA Development League. Head coach Gene Cross manages a roster of young and veteran talent that recently included overnight sensation Jeremy Lin. Buzzers announce the beginning of four quarters' worth of dazzling slam dunks, three-point shots, and Final Jeopardy lightning rounds as players hone their talents in preparation for upcoming games and potential rise to the NBA ranks.
Perched at the bow of the pirate ship, the captain's parrot braces for stormy weather. But in the case of the pirate-ship inflatable at Pirates Plank, the feeling of choppy waves isn't generated by water below, but by the youngsters hopping on it. Kids can also jump around on a Pirates of the Caribbean–themed bounce house before navigating around the tranquil ponds decorating the 18-hole miniature-golf course.
Elsewhere, Pirates Plank hosts races on its go-kart track, gamers in its video arcade, and players in its batting cages aiming for homers or to hit balls back into the machine they came from. The snack bar keeps visitors reenergized with tasty treats, and birthday parties entice attendees with unlimited soda and popcorn, arcade tokens for each guest, and mini-golf passes for future visits.
Between rugged cliffs stretching hundreds of feet toward the sky, a foaming river surges toward waterfalls and gentle tributaries. Upon its arching rapids tumble buoyant rafts, ferrying animated passengers who scream with delight at each bump along the way or sudden bald eagle sighting. For the experienced guides at Zoar Valley Canoe and Rafting Company, this is an everyday experience.
Currently celebrating its 43rd season, the U.S. Sailing Association–accredited Seven Seas Sailing School of Buffalo offers landlubbers a taste of the aquatic life aboard sailboats manned by U.S. Coast Guard–certified captains. The team regularly exercises budding sailors' sea legs with certification courses and a seven-part Basic Sail program, and has also instructed students with multiple sclerosis and worked with the Sea Scouts to construct the world's first brick sailboat as part of a mission to take down rogue lighthouses. Seven Seas' headquarters on the Buffalo Ship Canal, complete with on-shore barbecues, a gazebo, and dockside gardens, hosts regular Friday-night family Sailabration events that combine food and fireworks with lively cruises and contests. When not sailing through their own programs, Seven Seas' captains and boats have been featured as crews in The Sullivans and Bruce Almighty.
Spanning 100 tree-lined acres, Silverdale Gun Club gives its members nine ranges to refine their marksmanship skills, from action shooting to precision rifle work at up to 200 yards. The club further supports these pursuits by housing a pro shop onsite. Though the ranges are chiefly reserved for Silverdale's members, they do open at select times to nonmembers.
In June 2001, Tim Grech gave up his corporate job to build a skydiving centre on 347 acres of pristine property. Tim and his team of CSPA-certified instructors introduce amateurs to the sky through guided-tandem or assisted-solo jumps and shepherd experienced jumpers through the progressive freefall. The bustling skydive centre boasts scenic views of Grand River, along with free camp sites with fire pits and communal barbecues for roasting freshly plucked clouds on a stick.