Bills in Buffalo

Bills in Buffalo

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Ryan Miller started this petition to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and

UPDATE 3-21-22

Bills in Buffalo has previously argued that it is critical for local taxpayers to benefit from the new Buffalo Bills stadium in meaningful ways. Simply preventing the team from relocating to another region should not be seen as adequate benefit for the community in exchange for a project that is currently estimated to use an unprecedented $1 billion in taxpayer funding.

Whether it is building a house, leasing space for a business, or building an NFL stadium, location is fundamental to the success of any real estate investment. Even with every other detail of such an investment being perfectly sound, if the location is flawed, everything else falls apart. 

After playing their first twelve seasons in the City of Buffalo, the Bills succumbed to the mid twentieth century suburbanization trend by moving Orchard Park in 1973. This, along with several other similar city planning errors, left Buffalo’s urban core depleted and its residents largely forgotten about for decades. Despite some recent positive momentum and population growth for the first time in 70 years, Buffalo remains the 3rd poorest city in the United States, and its socioeconomic outlook is still presently held back by several inadequacies and underinvestment in infrastructure and mass transit.

Building the stadium in Orchard Park, a location that the Pegulas’ own internal research acknowledges has “limited economic development momentum”, would be doubling down on the colossal mistakes our leaders made in the mid twentieth century. How can Governor Hochul champion an urban highway removal project here in Buffalo (covering the Kensington Expressway and restoring historic Humboldt Parkway on top of it), and not fight for the same principles with the Bills Stadium?

A stadium built in the City of Buffalo at the “South Park” site is the smartest option for the socioeconomic future of Western New York. As it stands currently with the stadium in Orchard Park, it is very common for out-of-town visitors to come to our region for a Bills game and never set foot in the City of Buffalo. Our airport is not connected to downtown by light rail, nor is downtown connected to Orchard Park. Locating the stadium in the City of Buffalo would force people to spend time and money at local restaurants, businesses, and hotels in the city, instead of chains and franchises in the suburbs.
 
Building at the “South Park” site would also lead to ancillary spin-off development in its vicinity with hotels, restaurants, housing, and possibly a convention center. This would create new jobs in industries that could employ people 365 days per year as opposed to a dozen weekends per year in Orchard Park. There has been essentially zero development around the current stadium over the last 50 years. Even if some development occurred around a new stadium in Orchard Park, it would likely be owned by the Pegulas and create jobs that are only accessible to those with a personal vehicle.

A stadium built in the City of Buffalo at the South Park site would also serve as a catalyst for desperately needed expansion of our NFTA MetroRail system. The site is adjacent to DL&W Station, which is currently being renovated and would function as a natural transit hub to serve the stadium on gamedays and (more importantly) our community the other 350+ days of the year. Citizens for Regional Transit has heavily researched the idea of expanding MetroRail from DL&W Station to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The Eastside-Airport extension, as they call it, would connect our city center and the main public transportation hubs for the NFTA and Amtrak to our airport via existing city-owned rail tracks, while simultaneously serving some of Buffalo’s most divested neighborhoods on the East Side.

In addition to providing residents of the East Side with much better access to the region’s job market, educational opportunities, and healthcare centers the Eastside-Airport extension would also lead to transit-oriented development along the route creating affordable housing options and jobs in these divested neighborhoods. Funding is available to cover the cost of a project like this through RAISE grants and the federal infrastructure bill, but without a larger project like a new Bills stadium to force the issue at hand, I suspect the residents of the city will remain an afterthought.

On December 23rd, 2021, the Pegulas' internal studies on the new stadium location were released to the public on the New York State website thanks to a lawsuit by the Investigative Post. Although the Pegulas have proposed that the new stadium be built in Orchard Park, their own internal studies actually support the opinion and echoed many of the supporting arguments that Bills in Buffalo and other community members and organizations have been making all along: building in the City of Buffalo is the best option.

The South Park site in the City of Buffalo was ranked highest overall in the Pegulas' studies. Furthermore, the Pegulas' studies also rated the South Park site as being superior to Orchard Park in terms of future land usesite characteristics, economic market trends, transit system, district identity, walkability, ride sharing, long-term transportation plans and the potential to create a mixed use district.

Furthermore, despite being a frequent reason cited against building in the city, the Pegulas' own studies actually rated the South Park site as being better than Orchard Park for tailgating. Last, but certainly not least, the Pegulas' studies gave the South Park site the highest possible score for revenue generation, while Orchard Park received the lowest possible score.

Why are the Pegulas ignoring the advice of their own studies? It likely comes down to money. Their studies estimated a stadium at the South Park site to cost $400 million more and take two years longer to complete than Orchard Park. Orchard Park has a cheaper overall price tag, there are less obstacles that need to be worked out, and they can move in and start profiting two years sooner than if they built at the South Park site.

If the Pegulas' reasoning is in fact financial in nature, we cannot blame them. They have been good to Buffalo since coming here, but ultimately, they are business owners. They have no obligation to worry about the future of this region or the return on investment for taxpayers. That responsibility is on County Executive Poloncarz and Governor Hochul.

The additional cost of building it in the city, which is reported as $400 million by the Pegulas’ internal studies, only amounts to an extra $13.3 million annually for thirty years. $13.3 million is a mere 0.006% of the total NYS Budget of $212 billion for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. New York State generated $70 million in additional tax revenue from its first month of legalized sports gambling. If that trend continues, the state could generate the extra $400 million needed to build the stadium in Buffalo by sometime this summer.

Ensuring that constituents see tangible benefits from investments that are made with their tax dollars should not be seen as a radical or progressive idea. In fact, it is intrinsic to the role of public servant, and one that Western New Yorkers on both sides of the political spectrum should rally around. 

In this instance, our elected officials do not have an easy task. The Pegulas have a key advantage in negotiations with being able to threaten to relocate the team out of Western New York. The NFL’s franchise relocation fee could make relocation cost prohibitive for the Pegulas, however, especially if a generous offer in terms of taxpayer funding was on the table to both stay in Western New York and build the stadium in the City of Buffalo. 

For example, imagine if Governor Hochul and County Executive Poloncarz offered to cover 100% of the total cost of a new stadium with taxpayer money, but only if it was built in the City of Buffalo. They could still offer the Pegulas public funding for Orchard Park to prevent the Bills from leaving entirely, but considerably less, say only 40% of the total cost. This is only fair considering the Pegulas’ own studies indicate the best option for the taxpayers funding the project is to build in the City of Buffalo.
 
Choosing the South Park site in that deal would clearly be smart for the Pegulas, but would it be smart for us taxpayers? Absolutely. Especially when you consider the proposed alternative of Orchard Park contributes nearly $1 billion of our money to an isolated suburban stadium that offers us zero tangible benefits aside from keeping the Bills in Western New York.

There is no logical reason or valid excuse for this stadium not being built in Buffalo. As outlined above, the difference in cost between Orchard Park and Buffalo is negligible in terms of the larger context of the annual New York State budget, but the difference in return on investment is one of generational socioeconomic growth and progress.

We are again at a watershed moment in Buffalo’s history. The time currently is ripe for progress, change, and growth. Let’s not look back in thirty years after watching more and more cities pass us by and wonder what could have been? A Bills stadium built in Buffalo along with the associated expansion in public transportation and infrastructure improvements that would come with it, has the power to transform our city back to its former turn of the 20th century glory by promoting economic growth, social progress, and improved quality of life for all Western New Yorkers for generations to come.

By signing this petition, you are asking that Governor Hochul and County Executive Poloncarz do everything in their power to convince the Pegulas to build the new stadium in the City of Buffalo. This is because even if taxpayers had to pay 100% of the total cost for it to go in the city, it is still overwhelmingly a better deal for taxpayers and investment in the future of our region than spending $1 billion of taxpayer money on another isolated suburban stadium in Orchard Park.

Next Steps:

  • If you are in agreement, please SIGN and SHARE this petition with as many people possible. There is nothing more powerful than the will of the people.
  • Text the phrase “Go Buffalo” to the phone number “50409” and follow the prompts to have a letter sent to Governor Hochul on your behalf.

 Additional Resources:

Ways to Get Involved:

  • Do NOT donate to Change.org. The donations on here go to trying to get the petition featured on the Change.org home page, which is not realistic or helpful. This is a local issue, not national. 
    If you want to donate, please consider donating to our GoFundMe page. All of the donations will go towards marketing, outside consultant travel, lawn signs, hiring of experts, and paid studies.  All Committee Members are working for free and will NEVER receive compensation of any kind. Every cent counts so please help out!
  • Another way to get involved is by purchasing one of these awesome lawn signs to help spread the word. Special thanks to Rory Allen of ZoomCopy for making these happen!
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0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!
At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!