April 2014 Column – Bills’ Future in Buffalo


Let me add my voice to the chorus of others praising Ralph Wilson upon the occasion of his passing. There was a misperception in some quarters that Mr. Wilson came into Buffalo and took a ton of money back to his home in Detroit. This was never the case, as I found out last year when we approved the Bills’ stadium lease.

The fact is that under the lease, the county is spending an average of $10.3 million per year and the state, $12.3 million on the Bills for stadium renovations and game day expenses. While researching the lease last year I found that Bills’ ticket sales totaled about $35 million for the 2012 season. Although this is a lot of money, it covered only a fraction of the Bills’ $168 million payroll for that year. Most of the Bills’ money comes from the NFL’s network TV contracts. So instead of money flowing out of Buffalo to Detroit, we actually had money from all over the nation coming in. If the Bills were to leave, so would their payroll. Admittedly, some of this money leaves the area in the off-season. But the lion’s share remains here for most of the year. Players and staff pay state income tax, sales tax and property taxes that would be paid in some other community if we were to lose the team. Having the Bills in Buffalo also gives us money from out of area fans, jobs in restaurants and sporting goods stores and a steady stream of ex-players who spend their NFL pension checks here.

With Mr. Wilson’s passing and the prospect of the team’s sale looming, the need for a new stadium becomes all the more important. I favor taking a serious look at the proposal by the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex (GBSEC) to build a domed football stadium, hotel, conference center and sports museum on the outer harbor with private money. The group has retained HKS, the firm that built stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts and is constructing one for the Minnesota Vikings. This is not some fly-by-night operation, but a group of world class architects who get grand things done. Their plans for building a complex which can be used year round, will link downtown to the outer harbor are exciting and deserve serious consideration.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.

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