by Pat Freeman

Recently the Buffalo News reported that progress is being made with extending the lease of the Buffalo Bills here in western New York . The renovations estimate to 40 year old Ralph Wilson stadium will total more than $200 million. Which is more than county official first estimated that they would be around $100 million last fall. According to this report County Executive Mark Poloncarz hopes that most of the required funds will come from the state, and the Buffalo Bills hopefully will kick in some of the funding following the trend of other NFL cities. The state of New York is said to receive between $10 million-$20 million annually from tax revenues that are generated from the Buffalo Bills annually from playing in western New York , and county government is hoping they will pay for the bulk of the requested renovations over a three year period.

Well I have several concerns that I have tried to make myself available to our elected officials in regards to this effort of keeping the Bills in this area that need to be heard. The first concern that I have is that our local officials are basing their negotiating stance on the belief that Ralph Wilson stadium can last another 25 years with the proper up keep. The physical structure of the stadium is no doubt one of the best in the league, and has been kept up very well by the county over the last 40 years. The problem is that the stadium does not fit the modern production requirement of an NFL stadium any longer. The design of NFL facilities has changed greatly in just the last ten years providing several options to attract fans from watching the game in their living rooms to wanting to attend live contests. Our stadium offers very little amenities once you enter the gates of Ralph Wilson stadium.

The second concern is the current NFL production standard is one of the worst in the NFL, and lags behind many NFL teams. This standard makes covering major games at the stadium a major inconvenience for the networks, and photo media who now do most of their editing in stadium photo rooms over the internet.

The third concern is the stadium usage, and location which no longer is the trend of NFL cities. Orchard Park is not the hub of Erie County that distinction belongs to the city of Buffalo . The current trend nationally is to strengthen the urban centers, and move large venue facilities back into the heart of the city. No longer are cities being looked at as secondary to suburban townships because if urban centers begin to flourish they begin to produce jobs, and opportunities for the bulk of population areas. This trend leads to a natural reduction of poverty because government action has triggered private sector job creation. There has been very little if any private sector job creation related to Ralph Wilson stadium because it is not part of the western New York convention space, and is only used a mere ten times per year. I find this fact alone as being fiscally irresponsible to even consider investing $200 million into a facility that would take ten years to break even in tax revenues.

If the stadium was located in downtown Buffalo , and with its construction a better and more expanded convention space the stadium would pay for itself within three-to-five years. The project would also attract more hotel investors, new businesses, and existing businesses would move quickly to reap the benefits of the remodeling of one of the most beautiful areas on earth. The fourth problem with remodeling Ralph Wilson stadium is that it’s only a temporary band aid to the eventual sale of the team to a new owner. It also opens the door to the team leaving western New York . Sorry elected officials, I’ve covered the NFL for 18 years which includes playoffs, and 12 Super Bowls. There has never been an owner relocate a team from a city that just built a new stadium.

The relocation of franchises from cities usually involves areas that can’t agree on building a modern Multi-use structure for an NFL team. So elected officials in other areas that have the same problems of western New York are building multi-use facilities to provide NFL teams with modern state of the art facilities, but to also produce revenues outside of football which include conventions, entertainment, and trade shows. Why here in western New York we can’t see the writing that is on the wall that there will be a new owner of our NFL team that will first make a demand for a new NFL stadium located in downtown Buffalo?

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