After months of discussions and weeks of behind the scene negotiations, the Buffalo Bills reached an agreement with New York State and Erie County to build a $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park. With a $1.4 billion price tag, many taxpayers are left upset.
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou is the voice of these taxpayers.
“Our public schools got less than the Buffalo Bills stadium. The climate bill, the climate project that we really wanted, also got less than the Buffalo Bills project. Is that what we stand for? This is a moment where we have to look at where our priorities are,” said Niou.
On the opposite side, Jenna Cottrell of 13WHAM News is one of the many that are very excited to see what this will bring to Buffalo.
“The official announcement of the deal was exciting to see especially since it means the Bills will stay in Buffalo for the next 30 years,” says Cottrell.
Since 1973, the Bills have been playing in what is now known as Highmark Stadium. Now, with the help of the state and its taxpayers, the NFL franchise will begin construction for its new open-air stadium in the spring of 2023. Estimated to hold up to 62,000 fans, the targeted completion date is in 2026.
The agreement is that New York State will pay for $600 million of the construction costs, while Erie County would cover $250 million. More than $400 million of that ($850 million from New York and Erie County) will come from gambling revenue, and roughly $180 million will come from the capital projects portion of the New York state budget. The remainder $270 million will come from taxpayers. This will be the largest public commitment for an NFL facility in the history of the league. An NFL-approved loan of $200 million, as well as $350 million from the team’s owners, will give the organization a total of $1.4 billion.
This funding was approved by the Assembly with a 95-49 vote. It was then passed by the Senate with a vote of 39-23.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who played a major role in the deal being approved, says she believes this stadium will greatly benefit the city of Buffalo.
“I see restaurants, bars, supermarkets, retail stores that will flourish during these opportunities while the facility is being built and will flourish afterward. This is good for Buffalo. This is really good for every upstate community around us,” said Peoples-Stokes.
The executive vice president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, who owns the Buffalo Bills, Ron Raccuia also noted that he believes every dollar that is put into the construction of the new stadium will be paid back. The state estimates that the Bills will generate $27 million in direct annual income for the state.
The construction of the new stadium is also estimated to bring in 2,000 construction jobs, as well as 10,000 union jobs.
This stadium is about more than just the money though. The $1.4 billion agreement affects the NFL as a whole. There are only 32 NFL teams in the league, and Cottrell says that there are many cities that would jump at the opportunity to have a team.
“The money coming from the state is a lot, but to keep the Bills in Western New York it takes that kind of financial commitment. There are so many other cities that want an NFL team and that’s the cost of doing business. If the state didn’t want to assist with the new stadium there are plenty of other places that would gladly pay the money to bring the team there,” says Cottrell.
For years, the Bills were a bottom-of-the-league team. Before their rise to the top over the past few years, they got barely any recognition by the league. Now with a new stadium, the team may finally be viewed as one of the league’s “superstars”.
“The new stadium is great for the new team and strengthens the monetary value of the NFL in general. Buffalo’s current stadium is really in tough shape compared to many other teams’ stadiums. I also think it will be a better experience for fans with updated amenities as well as a protected roof that helps with the elements,” said Cottrell.
Whether or not some state taxpayers agree with the decision, this stadium will be built. A team that has struggled for many years, the Buffalo Bills have found their franchise guys in quarterback Josh Allen and team head coach Sean McDermott. The Bills will look to bring the city of Buffalo not only a stadium but a Super Bowl trophy to place on its shelves.