Buffalo radio sports guy proposes downtown Bills stadium

No sooner had we gotten used to the prospect of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson demanding public money for a renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium than suddenly there’s talk of building a new downtown stadium for the Bills. Though how you define “talk” depends on how far you read down through this news item from WKBW-TV:

Plans for a New Stadium in Downtown Buffalo Emerge

Okay, that sounds clear enough from the headline. What does the lede of the story say?

Could a new stadium be heading to the Queen City? It’s a proposal that’s being discussed inside city hall.

“Inside city hall” — so presumably either the mayor or the city council is on board with this. Sounds serious.

Mix 1080 AM WUFO Sports Director Patrick Freeman says he has a plan to bring a new multi-use stadium to the heart of downtown Buffalo and presented his ideas to the Buffalo Common Council Tuesday.

Wait, what? A local radio sports director said at a city council hearing that a downtown stadium would be a good idea, and that’s your idea of “discussions inside city hall”?

It does sound like councilmembers took Freeman’s suggestions seriously, or at least politely — one said that this “could be, oh, something that could help us save face from all the mistakes that have been made in the past in the city of Buffalo, you know, moving stadiums into Orchard Park.” But with no funding or site identified, and no price tag even, it’s a little bit, shall we say, premature to even call this a “plan.”

What this does mean, though, is that we’re potentially moving from debating whether New York state should fund $100 million in stadium renovations to debating how to choose between spending on renovations or spending on a whole new building. Somewhere, Ralph Wilson has to be smiling.

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7 comments on “Buffalo radio sports guy proposes downtown Bills stadium

  1. New Stadia only help their clubs if the fans can be convinced to pay significantly more to attend their team’s games in one.

    There are many locations where this would happen, but Buffalo is unlikely to be one of them, IMO. It’s economy and population have been in decline for quite some time.

    Unless this proposed stadium comes with the kind of idiotic guarantees on unsold ticket/suite purchases by the host city, I don’t see Wilson making more money out of it. He makes as much as his market can pay at Orchard Park. He’s even moved one game a year to Toronto to keep season ticket prices in Buffalo in the affordable range (for 7 games) for residents and, of course, to make bags of money from the Rogers folks in doing so. He boasted at the time the deal was signed he’d lose no money in Buffalo by moving one game out. I think we all know what that means… ticket prices stayed more or less the same for the 7 game season.

  2. Well, if “new stadium” here means “new stadium with five restaurants and a mall built in,” then presumably Wilson could make more money from it, even if ticket prices don’t change. So long as he’s not the one paying for it, anyway.

    I’m very curious what’s motivating Freeman here. (My knowledge of the Buffalo sports radio market isn’t as intimate as it might be.) I see he covered the Bills for two decades – is he close to Wilson? Or just trying to get some attention for a pet dream of his own?

  3. I would agree that the main focus seems to be about moving the question from “should we do something” to “should we give $100m to a 92yr old non-resident who has never won a championship or should we just build him a $700m new stadium? Which is the better deal?”.

    That said, Bills fans that have travelled to the Toronto games tend not to spend anywhere near as much as Rogers hoped they would. Buffalonians are careful shoppers from what I’ve seen, and know when they are being ripped off.

    Of course, none of that means Wilson can’t demand a new retractable roof stadium/mall/spa with an indoor waterpark and 20 acre beach/wavepool. I’m just not convinced he’d make significantly more than he does now if he got one.

    Not sure what Freeman’s angle is. But given that we’ve been told the team will be sold when Wilson dies, and that it’s unlikely any local owner will be willing to pay $800m or so for the franchise and keep it in Buffalo… I have my doubts that a new stadium is justifiable… unless Freeman believes Wilson can live to 130 or so.

    Of course, few other new stadia are justifiable either…

  4. I’m sick of these brats. These owners are just using the new stadiums as a way to pass along expenses to the fans. Why can’t people see this?

  5. I’m curious as to where in downtown Buffalo a new Bills stadium would be bulit. Is their even enough room in downtown Buffalo for a new Bills stadium? Why a new stadium? How old is Ralph Wilson? When he’s not around anymore who is going to buy the Buffalo Bills and keep them in Buffalo? The former owner of the Buffalo Sabres Tom Golisano?

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