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Should the Bulls and NYS pair with the Bills?

So did you hear, the Bills want a new stadium in Orchard Park, or they are going to leave for San Antonio....

Or so the story goes.

Things got more interesting recently when UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt made it known UB is interested in pairing with the Bills on this venture. His conditions are that it be on or proximate to the UB North campus. Where the cost would be close to the same as Orchard Park, but the UB community would have walking access for game days.

Of course maybe, with the right package, SUNY could be tempted in pairing up with the Bills for a downtown stadium and this is a negotiation. Negotiation strategy is not my thing, Conrad recently had some interesting throughts worth a read.

So here’s my thoughts on the matter.

Me on public financing

As a whole I am very against the idea of publicly funding a stadium for a professional sports team. They are already quite rich, and have done so using a stadium back in the 60’s.

But, and this is important, if you can show me that the economic impact of the facility is actually going to be an investment, then that combined with the social benefits of having a “home town team” suddenly seem somewhat worth it.

Other, far more educated people on public policy and public building have said similar things.

An RIT study some years ago talked about how a Downtown stadium would help spur development in the cobblestone area.

The focal point of the design will be a revised Sports and Entertainment District with entirely new city blocks surrounding a new downtown football stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Growth will stem from the Cobblestone District and reach outward beyond the I-190 overpass, back into the original Joseph Ellicott plan. The design is a three-pronged approach that will address connectivity, residential blocks, and commercial growth — all of which are staples of a healthy, sustainable downtown.

The Three Options on the table

* The Bills want Orchard Park. A small town of 3,000 30,000 people where the team already owns some facilities. It’s remote and largely underdeveloped. And it’s on the wrong end of the Buffalo-Niagara’s moving population center which has been sliding north into Amherst for decades.

The Advantage here, for the owners, is obvious. Nothing has to move for them. They spend 700 million, the tax payers spend 700 million, and the Bills have a shiny new stadium in the middle of nowhere that is only useful to them for 20 years. (at which point they will probably ask for a third stadium in Orchard Park).

* In terms of community development Downtown is the best option. There has been a lot of effort put into revitalizing the area and the infrastructure improvements of the stadium would cause a lot of development around it.

But, it’s expensive, perhaps prohibitively so. You’re going to probably double the cost of the venture and at that point I think you may lose any of the ROI that such a site.

As part of a new convention center it could be interesting.

* What Mark Alnutt, and others, have said is that Amherst makes the most sense for a new stadium. In terms of cost it’s not going to be much more than Orchard Park. If you laid the stadium right where UB stadium currently sits you already have access to most of what you need. Including hotels, parking, and existing businesses.

Unlike Orchard Park, Amherst is a thriving and growing population center. It’s also become an economic hub for the region and is centrally located between Rochester, Niagara Falls, and the US/Canada border, sitting at the intersection of the 90 and 290.

More than that, unlike Orchard Park, a stadium in Amherst would be useful beyond the Bills games and the odd concert here and there.

The State university of New York at Buffalo is a thriving school who’s enrollment has surged to more than 30,000 students over the past two decades.

If you’re comparing Amherst and Orchard Park and asking where would a stadium better improve the Buffalo/Niagara region, Amherst is by far the right choice from every conceivable angle but one. The convenience factor for the Pegula’s.

And honestly, to me, if the decision boils down to “what’s best for the Pegula’s”, then let them fund the whole stadium themselves. Honestly, offer them a break on any property taxes for 15 years let them buy the land and build their stadium.

Because so long as it’s basically just a “Bills” stadium I have no interest in seeing tax dollars go to fund it.

If, however, the ownership of the Bills and NY come to terms with a stadium located on state land, in Amherst, which will include UB as a secondary tenant, cost sharing seems to be called for, an even split or even a majority state funded makes sense if the stadium will be a useful state asset should the Bills leave.

If we build in Orchard Park, again, and in 20 years the Bills do leave what good is that stadium? If you build it in Amherst it will be useful for 50 years, whether or not the Bills stay.

The last poll I can find on the subject didn’t include Amherst, but it did state that a majority of people in Buffalo don’t want the new stadium in Orchard Park.

Buffalo has a chance to to something right, build something that will holistically benefit the county and the region. And if you’re going to spend 700 million of tax payer dollars that improvement is going to be in Amherst.

Or.... They can just give a rich guy a stadium, right where he wants it.

ht to RMA for catching my mistake using the village of OP population and not the town.