Build the Bills Stadium in Buffalo
Build the Bills Stadium in Buffalo
Why this petition matters
OPEN LETTER: Build the Buffalo Bills Stadium in Buffalo
The ownership of the Buffalo Bills (the Pegula’s) want Buffalo area taxpayers to fund a new stadium in Orchard Park. They want at least a billion dollars from us, with no strings attached. The Pegula’s are worth about $6 billion dollars.
The Bills are popular—especially right now. So the politicians are lining up, screaming, “Build the stadium!” Support the team! Whatever it takes! And no matter how bad the deal is, they will all do a victory lap when the things goes up—no matter the cost—falling over themselves to take credit for giving money away to one the of the richest men in the world.
They should first be asking, “Is this a good investment?” Most studies say that publicly funded stadiums are not a good investment. They make the teams money, but not the communities. But I can accept that it means a lot to us to keep the team in Western New York. I’m just not sure that giving the Pegula’s billions to build one in the suburbs will guarantee that.
Many cities have tried, in vain, to keep pro-franchises by jumping through hoops for billionaire owners. The most famous case is St. Louis, which built the Rams a state-of-the-art stadium to keep them in town. The city’s taxpayers are still paying that debt. But the Rams are in Los Angeles.
Will the Pegula’s cut and run? Who knows? They are not from here, but they seem like good people, as far as billionaires go, and seem generally committed to Western New York. But they are going to do what is in their interest.
It is in their interest—right now—to build the stadium in Orchard Park, isolated, in that spot, because it helps them control all of the profit—parking, concessions, etc. It’s like a theme park, a virtual monopoly on game day. But if you build it in the city, like many communities have, a stadium can have spillover effect, helping local restraints and businesses. In semi-rural Orchard Park, land is cheap, and spill over is almost nill.
“But Orchard Park has good parking,” some would claim. "What about transportation? Traffic?" “What about it?” I would ask back. Remember, part of the reason that the stadium was first built out in Orchard Park in 1971—away from the city—was to keep certain people away. And you know what I'm talking about, so called, “white flight.”
1971 was a time of racial tension in America—I guess it always is—and white folks were sick of traveling to the old “Rockpile” stadium in the city. Yes. It’s a difficult thing to admit, but many planning decisions in Buffalo (like the limited subway, the lack of public transit, the positioning of expressways) were intended to divide communities based on race. Do we really want to continue that awful legacy?
Further, if we’re talking about transportation, why is Orchard Park ideal? Far from the Canadian border, the airport, and arguably North America’s greatest tourist destination: Niagara Falls. Orchard Park is also in the snow belt, not exactly centrally located, and a hike for many.
But some will argue that our #BillsMafia tailgating culture will end if the Bills return to Buffalo. Dare I say it? Good!
Uh oh, did I commit another political heresy? Well, someone has to say it. Have you been to a Bills game? Do you feel comfortable walking your children though the spring break style antics? Let’s be honest. It’s not a kid-friendly experience, and it was much more G-rated not so long ago. I remember going as a child and it being pretty family focused as we grilled sausages and tossed the ball around.
I’m actually astonished that there is not more pushback against some of the frat boy antics that occur at the games by our local leaders. They instead seem to revel in it. But then again, I guess I’m not surprised. It’s bad political form to say anything negative about the Bills or what’s happening at the games, including, apparently, the demands for cash (threats?) by the billionaire owners. But we should. It's our team too. After all, we're paying for it!
We can do better. We can create a new, tailgating culture in the city, like other cities have, with food trucks and local night life—see Detroit. We could celebrate the best of Buffalo, and not continue some dated recreation of Woodstock 99 every winter and fall weekend.
And is this really the best we can get for a billion dollars? A glorified high school stadium with a bunch of luxury boxes for other billionaires? There have been many superior plans floated over the years, including waterfront designs. Imagine investing in the Central Terminal, turning it into a multi-transportation hub, hotel, and retail space. Let’s build a retractable dome stadium, that could host a Super Bowl—we will never get one in an open air stadium—and host the future of sport.
To those who say there is no space in Buffalo, are you serious? Look around. We could find a spot. This is not Manhattan tight.
There are sadly abandoned facilities scattered throughout the city. No one needs to be displaced. Get some top notch architects in here. Watch what they can do.
We also need to design this for future (not current) needs. Things are changing. Two of the most popular sports 50 years ago were horseback racing and heavy weight boxing. Where are those sports today? It will take us 50 years (at least) to pay this thing off. We should be thinking about what’s next.
Are you really sure football (concussions folks . . .) as currently played, in the open air, will even be relevant in 50 years? What are your kids or grandkids into? Because in Asia today they are building venues for Fortnight and League of Legends—E-sports.
I’m not against the stadium. I’m for it. I’m just not for repeating the mistakes of bad planning that divided us and maimed our city. I don't want out children bemoaning this decision like we wince over the last generations choices. If we are going to give this sort of money to billionaires, it should be for a facility that can enhance the transportation, culture, and future of our civic hub, our queen city, our heart—Buffalo.
The stadium investment is in essence, corporate welfare or corporate socialism. In a city with such economic and infrastructure challenges, this project should have a net positive social effect, a synergy, a multiplier impact for the region. There is money to be had, with federal infrastructure funds flowing. Let’s get creative. Let’s be wise. Let’s think big.
So it may not be the political thing to say, but I’m proud to say it again . . .
BUILD THE STADIUM IN BUFFALO!
(Help me get their attention. Please sing the petition!)