Bills to ask for $200-million-plus in stadium upgrades

The Associated Press reports that Erie County and the Buffalo Bills owners may be nearing agreement on a $200-million-plus renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium, as part of a new lease for the team. That’s more than double what Bills owner Ralph Wilson was proposing last year — no explanation of why the higher price tag.

As for who’d pay for this, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said only that (in the AP’s words) the Bills and the NFL have been “asked to contribute an undisclosed share,” while New York State will be asked to “provide a commitment.” More details will be laid out in a memorandum of understanding that is expected to be drawn up in coming weeks, but even then we may not know a lot of the details — such as whether the Bills will repay any public expense via lease payments or shared stadium revenues — until an actual lease is drawn up over the next year, not to mention until the state legislature sinks its dysfunctional teeth into it.

Basically, this is all just an opening gambit. If you’re an Erie County resident or New York state taxpayer — hey, wait, that’s me! — curious about whether your money will be used to prop up the value of the Bills when they get sold, you’ll just have to stay tuned for further details.

5 comments on “Bills to ask for $200-million-plus in stadium upgrades

  1. No matter how much gets presented initially as the NFL/Bills share, it will go down significantly. But take heart, noble taxpayer! I’m sure the share of revenues will go up. At least the percentage of what the Bills will get will go up. After all, one must prop up the value of the franchise. This in turn will entice the new owners to relocate after they find better hunting grounds. After all the money the new owners spent, how could they turn down a chance at greater profits to pay off their debt?

    Maybe I’ll try to wake up more optimistic next time.


  2. The price tag didn’t “go up” since last year, someone just pulled out $100mil out of their tail and used it as a number. As it turns out, repairing the superstructure of a 39yr-old facility is hard to eyeball. But hey it’s cheaper than building a new stadium (just like the Yankees, Mets and Nets did Downstate with a couple hundred mil of state help, at least).

    Not to be flippant, but do the math — expect New York State to cover roughly half the cost, 20yr long lease, 8% state income tax, $120mil salary cap (which is only going to increase), half of the games that are taxed by the People’s Republic of New York State (well, 9/20 — two preseason, seven in Buffalo, one in Toronto) — not to mention the payroll taxes of a hundred or so employees, the liquor taxes that flow from Bills games (honestly, Buffalo has its problems, but drinking heavily on a Sunday morning outside of Bills tailgates isn’t a regular occurrence). Unless they’re funding a whole new billion-dollar stadium by themselves, New York state is getting its money back. Don’t worry, New York taxpayers, worse things have been done to your money.

  3. Bills fans are already paying taxes on all those things, so the state won’t be getting any more money back than it’s already getting now. Yes, if the Bills were to leave, they wouldn’t get income taxes from the players, and sales taxes from whoever is driving down to games from Ontario or whatever. But if every business were allowed to make the “if we weren’t here, we wouldn’t be paying taxes” claim, then nobody would ever pay any taxes.

    I’ll give you that our money has been blown on worse projects, though.

  4. Thanks for the response, Neil. To a certain extent I do agree with the futility of the “if we weren’t here, we wouldn’t be paying taxes” — the endgame of such a mindset is no one paying taxes because of government tax breaks.

    However, that’s the sad state of stimulating business in New York. We have all these economic development agencies (or some such) in which companies are given substantial tax breaks for every job they create (I think Yahoo! gets something insane from the government for building a data center in Western New York), in which the government is basically writing off future revenues generated from these positions to attract them to Upstate (much like the calculus in my previous post with the salary cap income tax multiplied by the years of the lease).

    I would argue that it would make a LOT more sense to have a reasonable corporate tax and income tax structure, stimulate business by free market economics, and generate revenue that way if there is real concern about government handouts — as it relates to the article, the Bills would have plenty of businesses to pay off their stadium with increased suite fees. At any rate that gets into an economic arguments that are way over my paygrade.

  5. Wow what a waste of money in these tough times. Orchard park could use an empty 200 million plus stadium when the Bills pack up and leave good luck suckers who are supporting this