The Buffalo Bills are the latest team in the NFL to play the stadium game.
Teams have been playing this game for decades, attempting to get cities and states to build them new stadiums. If they don’t get them the threat – implied or otherwise is that they will move.
But no team has ever asked what the Bills apparently want from the city of Buffalo – a $1.1 billion stadium plus $400 million to renovate the hockey stadium. And the husband-and-wife team of Terry and Kim Pegula, who own the team, reportedly aren’t offering to kick in any money.
At least that is what the Buffalo News reported. A spokesman for the owners said the figure isn’t accurate but didn’t say if it is less. Or even more.
What happens next is a critical question that may affect stadium building for years to come.
The negotiations should be fascinating. If the Bills get anywhere near a billion dollars, other teams will likely use that as a benchmark.
Nobody knows if this is just the opening bid from the Pegulas or if they are serious about not putting some of their own money into the stadium. On the other hand, the city and/or state officials aren’t going to kick in a billion dollars. But would they go for $200 million to $300 million? Who knows?
To put what the Bills are asking in context, no city has ever put up a billion dollars to retain a team. Las Vegas put up $750 million to build a new stadium to lure the Raiders from Oakland. Total stadium cost is estimated at $1.9 billion.
There is already speculation that Austin and San Antonio would be possible future homes of Bills, but it is hard to believe Jerry Jones would allow a third team in Texas.
St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego lost teams, so it is hard to imagine they would put up a billion dollars to lure the Bills.
And the Buffalo News reported the idea of taxpayers footing all the cost was a “non-starter” in Albany, the state capital.
Still Erie County executive Mark Poloncartz suggested there could be a compromise.
“It takes compromise on both sides and my goal is to get a deal done that is fair to all parties: Bills fans, to ensure the Bills are playing in Buffalo, but also the citizens of Erie County,’’ he said. “There is no blank check. Hopefully, there will be a compromise.”
He also said the Bills have never said, “If you do not give us what you want, we are leaving town.”
But they don’t have to say it. Many teams have moved when they don’t get what they want.
Most economists also say that subsidizing stadiums is a bad deal for the taxpayers.
But there’s more than economics involved. The Bills are such an integral part of Buffalo that losing them would be a devastating blow to the city and area.
The Sports Business Journal said the team will argue that staying in town would amount to a contribution by the team, but that argument would likely to fall on deaf ears.
So this is where things stand. The Buffalo News say the Pegulas want a deal done in a couple of months. That is totally unrealistic, especially since their lease doesn’t expire until after the 2023 season.
And things are in turmoil in Albany with Governor Cuomo facing impeachment if he doesn’t resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.
So which side will blink first? Will the Billls stay in Buffalo?
They should put the negotiations on Pay-Per-View.