I was ready to write about the Bills bizarre blame triangle — last night’s nightmare featured Mario Williams, Chris Kelsay and Chan Gailey singing New Order’s seminal classic at karaoke bar in Seoul — until news of two outlandish stadium proposals broke yesterday.
The first, brought to us by the Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, features a 72,000 seat stadium with a retractable roof in the outer harbor of Buffalo — it would also double as a convention center. Nicholas J. Stracick and George F. Hasiotis, the brains behind the operation, state the proposal would gain the NFL’s endorsement and ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo even without the team’s participation in the project. The developers have approached stadium builder HKS, the people behind Lucas Oil Stadium and the new football money pit in Minneapolis.
If that sounds like a pipe dream then you’re not an idiot. The NFL doesn’t endorse new stadiums without support from their franchises. Lawmakers in upstate New York are decidedly against the proposal, citing revitalization efforts made to a harbor that has been neglected for 50 years. Much like anywhere else in the world, if you don’t have political backing absolutely nothing gets done — and they don’t have it:
“Obviously, an innovative idea requires a rigorous public discussion, but I think the waterfront is the wrong place for this,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. “A stadium is not water-dependent or water-enhanced. People have been denied access to the waterfront for 50 years, and those days are over.”
Logistically the placement of a mega stadium near the waterfront would be a clusterfuck — no space for parking, a long distance from the downtown core and lousy roads that get pummeled by bad weather. The Tailgating experience — the only reason to make the trip these days — would be significantly altered.
The kicker, and most disingenuous aspect of the proposal, is the price tag. The total cost is $1.4 billion (for now) with Stracick and Hasiotis gunning for a public-private partnership that would see the state pay $400 million.
Basically, they’re asking the city of Buffalo to scrap revitalization plans in a part of the city that desperately needs it for a tax payer funded mega stadium that the team doesn’t want.
Equally ludicrous is the proposal from Buffalo area person (tired of calling these people businessmen) Rocco Termini. Citing Buffalo’s decay, Termini wants to build an NFL facility that could house the Bills in Hamilton, citing a bigger opportunity for corporate investment. The developer wants to create fast lanes at the border for easy access for American fans. Worried about the CFL? Don’t worry, the Ti-Cats could share the stadium — Jets/Giants style.
The lack of seriousness in these proposals only furthers my biggest concern regarding the Bills future in Buffalo. The team wants no part in these plans. In the summer Russ Brandon and the money men at One Bills Drive spoke about renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium. If you’ve been there recently it’s obvious how much work needs to be done — initial reports estimated a cost of $200 million. Who will pay is the question. Deliberations in July were brought to a halt over this issue. Erie County, State officials and the Bills — three entities averse to making good decisions — couldn’t hammer out a deal.
Ultimately, how long Ralph lives and what his family does with the team will determine if Buffalo gets a new stadium or the leaves for good.
Reuters Steve Keating, one year ago:
“Let’s say the Bills get a very conservative evaluation of $600 million, you’re talking about an inheritance tax for Ralph Wilson heirs of around $300 million,” explained Boland. “They may be forced to leave Buffalo because of the inheritance tax situation. “If Mr. Wilson were to pass away, this team in Buffalo may not be savable.
The team’s value has increased since that time. Unless a white knight — Jim Kelly’s famed ownership group that’s supposedly ready to buy the team is harder to track down than Mullah Omar — magically appears they’re gone, with L.A the most likely destination.
Maybe talking about Mario would’ve been less depressing after all.