The league is nudging the Bills to begin the process of replacing Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills aren’t budging, yet.
“We have not met and discussed anything relative to all the noise,” Bills president Russ Brandon said regarding a public and private group formed previously for discussing a new stadium, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “We have not met since April , right after Ralph [Wilson] passed away, on a new stadium. . . . We’re going to take a very slow, quantitative, objective view on what makes sense.”
Here’s what makes sense: With the national mood (except in Las Vegas) changed dramatically when it comes to subsidizing billionaires with taxpayer money for football stadiums, any effort to force the issue now would likely force ownership to pay for most of it themselves — which would force them to consider the basic nuts-and-bolts business decision regarding whether to pay for their own stadium in one of the smallest markets in the league, or whether to pay for their own stadium in a considerably larger market.
Carruci points out that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has criticized the NFL for pushing the Bills to build a new stadium that would generate all sorts of new revenue, in theory. Brandon isn’t sure that a new stadium would have that effect.
“The key is to realize that we are not L.A.,” Brandon said. “We are not Atlanta. We’re not Minneapolis. People say, ‘Oh, we’re very similar to Minneapolis.’ They have 28 Fortune 500 companies in that community. We have zero. We have to be a regional operation. We know that. That’s proven.”
The absence of a large corporate presence means that there will be far fewer buyers for high-end products like suites.
“With a new stadium comes new economics,” Brandon added. “And with new economics comes a public-private partnership, [Personal Seat Licenses], a lot of infrastructure cost. So we have to look at it in a very macro view and make sure that, as a community and as an organization, that there’s a partnership that exists that makes sense.”
That’s another way of saying that the Bills won’t be building a new stadium without taxpayer money. With taxpayer money currently harder to come by, the Bills aren’t willing to force the issue at a time when the issue could force the team out of town. If/when the Bills believe sufficient public money is available, that’s when a new stadium would likely be pursued.