by Chris Stevenson
No one asked me, but I’m sure if Buffalo were a predominantly-white city of 80% or more, we wouldn’t be having these conversations about a downtown stadium coming in. It would have been here. A lot of younger people who may oppose the idea of a downtown multi-use stadium don’t remember the days when this city had 3 major league teams playing in it. But it’s important to me and to the people of Buffalo that I get this out before we start using the words Toronto Bills, Florida Bills or the Bills join the LA Braves (LA Clippers) as our other SoCal ex-Buffalo team. Just yesterday afternoon AM 1080 WUFO (Wufo Mix Sheridan) Sports Director and Talk Show host Patrick Freeman made his pitch for a new downtown all-purpose stadium in front of the Erie County Legislator, and conspicuous by their absence was the presence of the big-3 local TV news networks although the Buffalo News and the Buffalo Criterion were there.
Freeman made reference to a couple of recent B-News articles on the stadium. The nagging problem for any one who runs a sports team in Buffalo is somebody from here getting exposure to how things are done elsewhere, once they return they start spreading the word of what they just got a huge whiff of, you won’t be able to pull anything over on the city the same way you used to. Bill’s owner Ralph Wilson Jr., is still living in the ’50’s by the estimation of many, and you can safely assume that’s how he views Freeman and his supporters right now. Having been to the last Superbowl he got to not only cover the game, but spend a lot of time in the Colt’s facility Lucas Oil Stadium. You’ll notice he frequently mentions the beautiful new facility in downtown Indianapolis. He talked to the owner of the Colts and the Mayor of Indianapolis. The cost to build that facility is close to the figure that Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., wants for his namesake out in Orchard Park; $700 million dollars (you don’t really believe all Ralph will be satisfied with is a measly $200 mil do you? Expect his renovation to $4-500 by the time they finish). The revenue that stadium is returning to the community has probably already exceeded the investment, 4,200 jobs have been added there. Freeman took a walk on the stadium’s Skywalk, and he has yet to come down, even after returning back home to the stone-age; Buffalo NY.
The State-of-the-Art retractable-domed stadium employs 4,200 employees. Think about many jobs and business can be created here.
Freeman also cites how the new stadium in New Orleans added $4 billion to their local economy and how we can do this without raising taxes. This was a concern with Tim Hogues who is vice chair of the Economic Development along with Chairman Thomas Loughran who presided over the session. Lynn Marinelli’s question was completely out of left field; “You are aware we are not negotiating.” She needs to do her homework, Buffalo has a history of legislatures who thought they had complete say-so on whether or not a stadium comes downtown, and they are among the prime reasons there isn’t a downtown dome stadium. But that’s a subject for a future column (coming soon). Freeman wasn’t the only one advocating a downtown stadium yesterday, other supporters showed up including former State Senator Antoine Thompson whom I remember raised the issue of a downtown stadium a few years ago, former local FBI head Bernard Tolbert, Greg Glover, myself and others from the community. Freeman was a major leading voice behind the successful move to get the local Harvard Cup merged into leagues where schools participate in the Sectionals, although he didn’t get any credit for this until I ran a piece on it back then. Just as he used his platform as a talk radio host to pressure local officials to merge local high school football, he has been using his expanded base of media and social networks-which includes writing columns-to broadcast the disparity between other local economies and Buffalo’s and how sports facilities play a prime recession-beating role for thousands of people across the country.
A lot of people living here are oblivious to what’s the real attraction of a major league stadium. They attract major Olympic sports competition, not the Toilet Games as Buffalo is used to getting, I’m talking first level stuff here. Do any of you here know what they’re talking about in Indy? Try World Cup Soccer! While the owner of the Colts is shaking hands with international officials, the owner of the Bills is shaking hands with local TV news networks to keep you from being up to date, AND from having a voice. According to one site “If the Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Colts, is chosen to host matches, the city would stand to see an economic impact of between $300-$500 million, according to Indiana Sports Corporation, which is behind the bid.
The stadium, completed in 2008, has a seating capacity of 64,200, which can be expanded to 70,000 (as will be the case for the Superbowl in 2012).
US Soccer will present its bid to FIFA on May 14, and the hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be chosen on December 2. It will be the first time FIFA will name two hosts the same day.
If the US is successful, the list of 18 cities will be trimmed down to 12 prior to the event.
The list of cities/stadiums is as follows:
Atlanta (Georgia Dome)
Baltimore (M&T Bank Stadium)
Boston (Gillette Stadium)
Dallas (Cowboys Stadium and Cotton Bowl)
Denver (Invesco Field)
Houston (Reliant Stadium)
Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium)
Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium)
Los Angeles (Rose Bowl and L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
Miami (Land Shark Field)
Nashville (LP Field)
New York/New Jersey (New Meadowlands Stadium)
Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field)
Phoenix (University of Phoenix Stadium)
San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium)
Seattle (Qwest Field and Husky Stadium)
Tampa (Raymond James Stadium)
Washington, DC (FedEx Field)
It has to be said: The list of stadiums remaining is impressive and unmatched by any country in the world. Seven of them can seat more than 80,000 and 14 were built in the past 20 years.” With the exception of the local major and black press and myself no one else was there to cover this event. I to admit to a little suspicion as to that, especially with the absence of reporters who covered Freeman’s proposal in City Hall a few weeks ago. Granted there are other things going on in Buffalo, the Corasanti trial, Freeman talked about the Mayor’s announcement of the water rate hike being held concurrently. However such a complete turnaround in publicity on such a hot-button issue smacks of a Ralph Wilson offseason blackout to me. While reporters aren’t the ones who choose what assignment they get, generally they are creatures of habit, those who cover a story from it’s inception generally are the ones who continue on with it til it’s completion. Claudine Ewing (WGRZ), Kyla Igoe (WKBW)and Rich Newberg (WIVB) were all no-shows. I spoke with Igoe and she said “unfortunately we were just short-staffed… we’ll definitely keep following up, we just didn’t have enough bodies.” Ewing was said to be in Albany, Newberg has not returned my call. Time is very important in this, Russ Brandon of course is pushing renovation, as it seems Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. Freeman thinks Poloncarz “committed himself to renovation too quickly.”
It took almost three years from the first shovel hitting the dirt to it’s completion to build Lucas Oil Stadium. Construction workers devoid of their own opinions and games can get things moving very quickly in other cities. It’s Buffalo Time. The poll at the top right of this blog is still ongoing, ad your vote and of course your opinion below in the comment section. Plans are being made right now to get the community involved in a public forum.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, Political Affairs Magazine, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice and The Network for clbTV. Sign his Petition to permanently Abolish the Death Penalty @ Change.org. Respond to him on the link below.