and what will be concluded by the new Stadium Working Group. Part I
by Pat Freeman
When the county, Bills and the state of New York announced the new ten year lease with the Bills I initially congratulated the negotiated parties on accomplishing the new lease agreement. Especially during the press conference they announced that there could be a new stadium down the road possibly in downtown Buffalo. Unfortunately this stunning revelation had some things attached to it that do not work in the benefit of the western New York tax payer.
First they would form a committee made up of the county, state and the Buffalo Bills who would begin studying what will be the future of the upgraded Ralph Wilson stadium that is now 44 years old. Yes the county does not want to start this process until 3-4 years from now. This is a critical misstep by the county of Erie because the entire validity of this lease rest on the fact of it being negotiated with the current ownership of the Buffalo Bills headed by 94 year old Ralph Wilson.
The second error in this part of the memorandum of understanding is that it’s apparent that the county executive is discounting the due diligence of the work already done by the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex, and the world respected stadium designers HKS. It seems to me based on his comments that he plans to repeat site study, pick architects, and repeat what the private investment group of the GBSEC has already completed. Thus doubling down on an unnecessary expense that would be paid for by the western New York citizen. The GBSEC has already expended close to one million dollars on preliminary studies with a world class design group which is respected all over the world. My question is why is the county executive attempting to pretend that there is no viable proposal on the table that would help to provide thousands of living wage jobs in an area that has more than 48,000 people out of work?
The only reason I congratulated any one on this new lease was with the understanding of let’s work together and make sure the Bills are here for the long term in the viable future by endorsing the GBSEC plan to build a Multi-Use Stadium, one of a kind Sports Interactive Museum, 2,000 room hotel, Retail Space, and a new convention center in downtown Buffalo. This proposal has estimated to create thousands of living wage jobs during its build out of 5-7 years. Now wouldn’t an elected official with more than 48,000 people out of work outside his door would at least want to look at this project? This does not seem to be the case here in western New York once again. It seems that elected officials here are once again guarding the status quo, and picking how they want to do things rather than what is in the best interest of who elected them.
We need to be honest with this new lease that it repeats the same economic scenario of 15 years ago and attempts to hold on to the grip of taxpayer subsidies going exclusively to a corporate profit making gentility without any return on the citizen’s investment.
The city of Indianapolis said we have to make a change that has produced in real numbers. Since the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008 and it being part of a renovated an expanded convention space project this stadium’s gross proceeds are more than 2.25 Billion dollars in gross revenue. It helped to attract four new hotels, 4700 new hotel rooms and more than 4200 permanent jobs. Also since its opening it has helped to create more than 60,000 human services and tourism jobs in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Yes they also were the host of Super Bowl XLVI which grossed more than 642 Million dollars to the Indianapolis region. This new economic relation ship between the Municipality and its professional franchises thus took an investment of 720 Million dollars and turned it into a net profit plus put thousands of citizens back to work.
The proposal made by HKS and The Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex I believe is better because it creates an attraction which is surrounded by the natural fresh water beauty of Lake Erie and the history of one of the great ports of the Great Lakes, and the Erie Canal.
Somewhere in the county’s negotiation of this new lease it seems that once again the citizens has been left holding status quo band aid ideas while at the same time trying to disrespect the creativity of private investment. The loser is once again with a shadow of the doubt the taxpayer with no return on their investment to a Forbes listed franchise that makes millions of dollars a year. The GBSEC plan turns this scenario upside down whereas the investment of public dollars produces revenue plus more importantly helps to create jobs.
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