Are Talks on Bills Stadium in the City Just Window Dressing?

editors note: For over  two decades Patrick Freeman has been advocating for a domed stadium in downtown Buffalo. A veteran sports writer for The Criterion (The Mighty O’Ba Sports Report), he has covered 21 NFL Superbowl’s and visited every stadium in the country, except three  – 16 of those located in downtown areas of the city. ast week he spoke at a public meeting sponsored by the Common Council  on the currently hot topic dealing with  where a new Buffalo Bills Stadium should be built.

The commentary below was submitted by Pat Freeman 

Aside from feeling shortchanged in terms of speaking time (“I spoke no more than 7 or 8 minutes while, for example, prominent  developer  Rocco Termini spoke for approximately an hour   and 15 minutes!), Freeman said he felt the  meeting  – and the conversation  in general  and across the board- is “just placating us.” 

That’s because nobody’s talking about private investment funding for the project, surmises Freeman. 

 “Cost verses return is my biggest argument,” he continued. Taxpayer subsidization programs may be OK from a business standpoint, but it hurts the masses of the residents.

“But they’re not listening,” he concluded. “I   truly believe they’ve got the deal done.”

Freeman elaborates on his position in the following  commentary.

Cost Verses Return

Let us examine a downtown stadium complex vs building a single sport stadium in Orchard Park which has been proposed by the professional team’s current ownership group. 

 The biggest difference in proposals is the downtown stadium complex is a private investment deal that must show potential investors that it will make a profit. The Orchard Park stadium proposal only makes a profit for the ownership group. The residual benefits of this antiquated proposal will also be seen on the downtown stadium side but with several distinct differences that must be discussed publicly and not behind closed doors. Some officials are saying that this process should be private because the professional owners are a private business. The problem with that reasoning is a non-governmental business seeking public funding and are the recipients of existing tax subsidies in the amount of close to $28 million per season disqualifies you from being a true private run business.

The downtown stadium complex creates and revamps the existing out of date convention space by also including a new privately funded Dome stadium, convention center, hotel, retail space, and other ancillary tenants. This proposal is being duplicated now by the Los Angeles Clippers, Arizona Coyotes, and has already been done in other cities. Remember pro football facilities only offer limited use and therefore the proposal made by the professional team ownership group is one of the worst in recent history. It is a proposal laced with the threat of “I will move the team to a city that will meet my demand.”    

This threat, based on the NFL by laws, must be approved by twenty-four out of thirty-two owners if no stadium deal is reached. That is the beauty of the private investment deal which would fund a multi-use dome stadium along with a modern convention center, and other ancillary tenants that will enhance the activity of the entire region including using the light rail system to cut down on traffic issues that currently are one of the worst in the NFL at the Orchard Park site. 

The professional team’s proposal is a status quo proposal with them being the only beneficiaries and the difference from late owner Ralph Wilson’s demand which had a price tag of twenty-three million dollars compared to the current group’s which is over 1.5 billion with little or no benefit to the region outside of what already exists. 

The Private investment proposal will create thousands of living wage jobs during the build out with thousands more after completion. This will be the greatest city enhancement that will bring even more activity from Southern Ontario into Western New York. The downtown proposal will only need government to fund infrastructure with a return on the investment. Some of the infrastructure for the downtown stadium complex should have been done years ago, especially expanding and improving our light rail system. 

The Orchard Park proposal is veiled in corporate welfare and how businesses try to sell trickle-down economics as a basis of making money on the backs of taxpayers. This practice must end,  especially NFL franchises which still operate as 501 C6 which allows them privileges that most certainly is enough economic consideration. 

Support the private downtown stadium proposal for a greater more prosperous region that benefits all ! 

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please note the below schedule is of the next public hearings released by Erie County Legislatures office . Public encouraged to attend: 

Notice of Public Hearing by Erie County Legislature Regarding the Bills Stadium and Location

Members of the public are encouraged to attend and speak to Legislators about their priorities regarding the Buffalo Bills stadium and the potential construction and location of a new stadium. Due to COVID-19, individuals will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing at the hearings.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Erie County Legislature has scheduled the following Public Hearings, all open to the public:

Monday, December 6, 2021, 6:00 pm • Erie Community College City Campus Auditorium, Old Post Office Building

Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 6:00 pm • Erie Community College North Campus Auditorium, Gleasner Hall (adjacent to Youngs Road) Williamsville, NY

Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 6:00 pm • Erie Community College South Campus Lecture Hall, Room 5102, Building 5 • Orchard Park, NY