Buffalo News now obsessing over how to pay for new stadium that Bills owner hasn’t asked for

Sure enough, the purchase of the Buffalo Bills by Sabres owner (and fracking billionaire) Terry Pegula, who has said nothing about needing a new stadium, has finally gotten the Buffalo News to stop asking where the new stadium should go. Instead, today the News asks:

How to pay for a new Bills stadium?
Be prepared: The effort is likely to be a collective one

The article then goes on to say that nobody knows how much a stadium would cost or who would pay for it, but that taxpayers always end up putting in a lot. And also that in the NFL “it’s expected that every team will have a state-of-the-art stadium that can pull in money year-round,” because stadiums that cost undetermined amounts of money and that are paid for by who knows are always bound to make money. Year-round. By their state-of-the-artness. Have I hit my word count yet?

Bills stadium renovations win raves, county exec says building can “last for 30 years” now

Not everybody hates their team’s new stadium: The Buffalo Bills (okay, their stadium is the same old one, just renovated on the public dime) got rave reviews from fans, according to the Buffalo News, with plaudits for the new gates, bigger stairways and restrooms, and expanded scoreboards. One fan even suggested that the renovations had people swearing less than usual:

“There’s a lot less drunkenness. People have more respect,” said [Jennifer] Shanahan, whose gold Buffalo Bills earrings gleamed in the sun. “Everyone is so much happier.”

It’s football utopia! Except for the part where the NFL wants to tear all this down and build a new stadium, something that the News doesn’t actually get around to mentioning in this article.

There are hints, though, that everybody could be backing away from the new-stadium talk, at least for the moment. At the ribbon-cutting for the renovated stadium, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz made one of the strongest statements yet in favor of sticking with the Bills’ current home:

“I’d ask for everyone to kind of sit back and let’s take a look and see how we’re doing here in this next year or so, because we know the facility structurally can last another 30 years. There’s a difference between infrastructure viability and long-term economic viability. I feel very confident if we do this right, not only will the facility last for 30 years but the economic viability of this facility will last to for years to come.”

And Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has flip-flopped on this issue multiple times this year, added: “The Bills are staying. The stadium’s good. Let’s stay right here for a while. Let’s win today, and the future will take care of itself.”

Added to the recent Buffalo News article signaling that Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s purchase of the team makes stadium talks “less urgent,” and it certainly sounds like someone in the NFL has gotten the message that this is a bad time to be asking for a new stadium, and the Bills can just live with their $200 million in existing state subsidies for the time being. Clearly my work is done here.

Buffalo News runs actual article saying Bills stadium possibly not needed right now, maybe

Well, lo and behold, I might actually owe the Buffalo News an apology for all the time I’ve spent poking fun at their atrocious coverage of the Bills stadium demands. The day after Terry Pegula won the bidding to purchase the Bills, here’s what the News ran today:

Pegulas’ winning bid makes stadium decision less urgent

ALBANY – The decision about whether the Buffalo Bills will get a new stadium, renovate their existing home or keep things as they are for now has become less urgent, now that Terry and Kim Pegula have been announced as the winning bidders for the team.

Okay, so it’s just recounting what some state leaders say, and is more “We don’t have to build a stadium just yet” than “Do we need to build a stadium at all?” (Sen. Charles Schumer says Pegula’s purchase provides a chance to “take a look at how we can collectively surmount the challenges to a new stadium that would strengthen the franchise for decades to come.”) But still, at least Buffalo residents are getting a break from the constant drumbeat of how a new stadium needs to be discussed immedi — sorry, what’s that, WGRZ-TV?

Pegula Purchase Re-ignites Stadium Talk

Never mind.

Cuomo now says Bills are fine in old stadium, but check back tomorrow

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won his primary re-election battle on Tuesday, and was immediately asked to chime in again on the Buffalo Bills stadium debate. This time, the Pop-o-Matic landed on … not enthused!

“You know, uh, maybe I have a vested interest because I have kind of tight pockets, I’ve been accused of, but I think the stadium with the renovations is doing very well.”

Yeah, who do those people think they are, insisting that the Bills need a new stadium. Like that guy who said in August, “If we need a new stadium to keep the Bills here long term, that’s something that I’m interested in talking about.” What ever happened to him?

Sabres owner to buy Bills, Buffalo News still can only focus on where a new stadium would go

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula has will be the new owner of the Buffalo Bills, winning the bidding with a $1.4 billion offer. This raises all kinds of interesting questions, like: Will Pegula continue to push for a new stadium, or will he be satisfied with the renovations just completed to Ralph Wilson Stadium? If the former, will he be willing (or able) to cover most of the costs via some of his $3.3 billion in fracking riches? When he said that the Bills and Sabres are “both here to stay,” does that mean he doesn’t plan on using NFL threats to move to the team to leverage a new stadium? As Sabres owner, could he get away with moving the Bills without being burned in effigy?

All interesting questions, that is, unless you’re the Buffalo News, which is dead-set on covering one and only one thing about the Bills stadium situation, which is where are we gonna build it already?

Pegula has not spoken publicly about his preferences for either a new or renovated stadium for the Bills.

But Pegula’s pending purchase of the team likely gives a leg up to potential stadium sites downtown, near First Niagara Center, where Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres play, and close to the HarborCenter hotel and hockey complex that now is under construction, sources said.

And in case that lengthy article (which does include one paragraph — number 14, if you’re counting — about the possibility of remaining in Ralph Wilson Stadium, with still more renovations) isn’t enough, there’s also a sidebar on six different sites that a stadium could be built.

It’s almost like the Buffalo News editors don’t read either me or the Columbia Journalism Review. Either that, or they’re covertly trying to wrest the satirical-journalism-site crown from ClickHole.

[UPDATE: I just realized I missed this article from yesterday, in which the News observes that Pegula's purchase of the Bills will give "clarity" to "the search for a new stadium site." Gotta give them points for consistency, anyway.]

Quick notes: Vegas MLS vote postponed, Raiders cost could be higher, Bills’ stadium and “need”

I’m on the road (well, the train) today, so no news updates, but fortunately it looks like a slow news day so far. The big items:

Finally, I have my debut article going up today at The Cauldron, on the Buffalo Bills‘ demands for a new stadium right after getting $200 million in state subsidies for renovations to their old one, and the psychology of “need.” The direct URL wasn’t available as I left the house, but head to the main page and you should find it. Enjoy! Or maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word

Cuomo task force nixes Niagara Falls as possible Bills stadium site (also, doesn’t know how to pay for anything yet)

Just two days after the Columbia Journalism Review reported on how the Buffalo news media is focused exclusively on where to build a new Bills stadium instead of whether to build one, here’s an article from the Buffalo News about where to build a new Bills stadium:

Consultants have narrowed the list of recommended sites for a new Buffalo Bills stadium to four best sites, and it appears all the finalists are within Erie County…

Not making the list of finalists are Niagara Falls and Buffalo’s outer harbor. The consultants determined they are good sites, especially Niagara Falls, but currently there are too many transportation hurdles.

The News can be cut a little bit of slack, since it’s just reporting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force’s study of a new Bills stadium, which was supposed to be out in July but is still not finalized. (Cuomo should get less slack for launching a new-stadium study for a team whose $200-million-plus stadium renovation bill he just paid, but Cuomo needs all the slack he can get these days.) Still, focusing on a leak of selected information from an unreleased state report counts as spinning the news, especially when the bigger news — how much a stadium would cost and who would pay for it — is still unrevealed, something that got all of one sentence in the story.

Meanwhile, at least one upstate New York journalist is making the opposite argument: Auburn Chronicle political reporter Robert Harding writes that the Bills don’t need a new stadium, because the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs play in renovated stadiums, and they do just fine. (Calling the new Soldier Field a “renovation” is stretching things, but whatever.) Of course, lots of other teams without new or renovated stadiums have done fine, too — it’s the NFL, where every team owner gets to pocket a $200 million check just by showing up to play on TV — but then we’re getting into the whole question of what billionaire sports capitalists “need,” and that way madness lies.

NFL says Bills need new stadium, Cuomo says, “Oh, in that case”

The story so far: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the Buffalo Bills $226 million for renovations to their current stadium, then he appointed a task force to find ways to build them a whole new stadium, then he said he would want any stadium to use “private money, too,” then he said he would “ask the taxpayers” first and that he was “very cautious about anything that would cost more money.” So really, these two developments should come as no surprise:

In a conversation last week with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and in other recent talks with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Goodell reiterated his contention that the NFL would like to see the Bills remain in Buffalo.

But a new stadium must be part of the mix, Goodell told them.

And:

“If we need a new stadium to keep the Bills here long term, that’s something that I’m interested in talking about,” Cuomo said.

The NFL is playing a pretty nutso game here, with the Bills’ terms of sale requiring that any bidders agree not to move the team, while the league threatens to move the team without a new stadium. I suppose you could interpret them both as “We want any new owner to commit to staying if the state agrees to build a new stadium,” but as it stands the NFL is trying to have it both ways, as pointed out hilariously in this excerpt from the Buffalo News:

The conversation came a day after The Buffalo News printed a letter from musician Jon Bon Jovi, who fronts a Toronto group that has put in a bid to buy the Bills from the estate of their late founder, Ralph C. Wilson Jr.

In the letter, Bon Jovi insisted that his group does not intend to move the team to Toronto, but stressed that it would like a new stadium in the Buffalo area. He did not say in the letter who would pay for the stadium.

“Bon Jovi really is an explicit articulation of the NFL’s position, with a more definitive tone,” [a source with knowledge of the Bills] said. “Bon Jovi says: ‘I will stay if you build a stadium, and the suggestion is the inverse, I will leave if you don’t build a stadium.’ ”

“The NFL never put it that harshly,” said the source, who detected what seems like an implied threat of a move in the commissioner’s insistent demand that the Bills need a new facility.

Is it really too much to ask that the NFL say what it means? Yeah, probably.

Bills need a new stadium so badly that people are only bidding $1.3b for the team

It’s official: Pretty much any sports team is worth a crazy amount of money now. Witness the Buffalo Bills, who Forbes has valued at $870 million, the third-least-valuable in the NFL; according to Buffalo Business First, there are currently three bids to buy the Bills from the estate of their late owner Ralph Wilson, and all are in the $1 billion to $1.3 billion range.

The names of the bidders helps explain what’s going on here: The three groups are led by billionaire Sabres owner Terry Pegula; Jon Bon Jovi; and Donald Trump. That’s one rich guy who wants to corner the market in Buffalo sports, and two rich guys who aren’t involved in sports but have money to burn and want something to burn it on. (Though Trump said earlier this week that his chances “are very, very unlikely because I’m not gonna do something totally stupid,” leading Deadspin to add that “Donald Trump is a clownfraud who only got involved in this for the attention.”) Pegula is considered the frontrunner in the bidding, in part because Bon Jovi’s group — which also includes Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications, because you’ve gotta have a TV company in there — has conducted a feasibility study into building a stadium in Toronto, and Wilson’s estate has indicated that it will give precedence to buyers who want to keep the team in Buffalo.

All of which makes it a bit puzzling why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others have been warning that without a new stadium, the Bills might leave — it seems like the team is plenty valuable right where it is. Or rather not puzzling, since we know why Goodell is saying it, but … maddening? Exasperating? One of those.

Buffalo Bills stadium report delayed, because writing is hard!

A New York state-commissioned report on the future home of the Buffalo Bills that was expected to arrive Friday didn’t, with the Associated Press citing “a person familiar with” the consulting firm blaming “the large volume of information.” Yeah, I’ve used that excuse too.

While we wait for the report, though, it looks like Buffalo elected officials are increasingly declining to take the Buffalo News’s bait that a new stadium is inevitable, and it’s just a matter of where to put it:

County Executive Mark Poloncarz tells 2 On Your Side his preference is at this point is a renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“I’ve said all along the one thing we cannot do is take off the table Ralph Wilson Stadium. We’re investing $130 million there, one of the reasons it was done was not only to make it good for the next five to ten years, but many years thereafter. After the investments we’re doing now it’s going to be a different stadium and when people go there this fall they’re going to realize that it’s still very viable to have the Ralph as the home of the Bills,” said Poloncarz.

We also asked Mayor Byron Brown about whether he thinks a new stadium is needed to keep the team in Western New York.

“I’m not sure about that,” said Brown. “I certainly want to see the team stay in this community for the long term and if a new stadium is needed, if a new stadium is required, I think it makes sense for us to accomplish that.”

It’s probably too soon to call this a major shift — even politicians who want to build new stadiums often say they’ll look at renovation, if only so they can reject it later — but taken along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s subtle rhetorical shifts, it looks like Buffalo elected officials are at least realizing that building a whole new stadium for a team that just got a renovated one is going to be a hard sell. We’ll see what they say once they get a look at the clear plastic binder.