For most new stadiums funded by public money, taxpayers don’t foot the full bill. In Buffalo, that’s what the Bills want the citizens to do.
According to Tom Precious of the Buffalo News, Pegula Sports and Entertainment has made a $1.5 billion proposal for a new Bills stadium and renovation costs for the arena in which the Buffalo Sabres play hockey. Per the report, the proposal asks for the full cost of the new Bills stadium to be covered by public funds.
Per the report, that’s a “non-starter.”
And here’s the kicker from the article, the thing that will be met with a loud and hostile reaction from any Bills fans in Buffalo who refuse to acknowledge the reality that football is business: “The team has made no overt threats, sources say, to leave Buffalo if it doesn’t get the full funding request, but it has made clear to government negotiators that there are other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it.”
Here’s the basic reality when it comes to stadium politics. Owners ask for free money to keep the team where it is. If that money isn’t available, they look to other cities that would be willing to foot the bill — either as leverage or as a true and genuine alternative.
That’s why the Raiders left Oakland. They couldn’t get much (or any) public money to stay where they were. They got a huge amount of it to move to Las Vegas. So they did.
And if a team will be paying for its own stadium (Bills co-owner Kim Pegula previously has said they can’t afford to do that), it makes sense to pay for that stadium in a larger market and/or one that will allow the venue to host as many other events as possible.
That’s why the Rams left St. Louis. Stan Kroenke, who could have gotten significant public money in St. Louis, decided to write the check for his own place because he believes that it will pay for itself and then some.
In Buffalo, it’s too early to suspect that the Bills may move. However, the Pegulas may need to persuade state and local officials that they’re willing to move the team in order to get the kind of public money they want.
It’s also entirely possible that the 100-percent proposal is merely an opener, and that the Bills are willing to partially fund the stadium with Pegula money or PSLs. Regardless, the bottom line surely falls somewhere between 100 percent and zero; the fact that they want it all to be covered by taxpayer money suggests that the drop-dead amount is closer to 100 than zero.
We’ll see where it goes from here. The Pegulas reportedly want a quick resolution. The current lease expires in 2023. So the clock is ticking, and the battle lines are beginning to come into focus. At a time when Bills fans have a reason to be excited about their team, they soon may have to begin worrying about its potential exit.