Bills owner says he’ll wait to ask for new stadium until it’s less embarrassing to do so

Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula was asked yesterday about his demands for a new stadium right after getting $130 million in state-funded renovations for his old one, and said, in essence, Shh, not so loud:

“The only answer to that question is the state and county, there’s been a lot of money put into Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Pegula said. “We’re in no hurry. We realize that if that work was just done, how foolish would you look if you start looking around for a new stadium when we’ve just renovated the one we have? We have time. We have an existing lease on the current stadium.”

Yeah, what kind of schmuck would demand a new stadium right after collecting a pile of state subsidies for renovations? I mean, really

“Well, there’s going to be a new stadium somewhere, that’s all I know,” Terry Pegula said. “The league was pretty emphatic that Buffalo — we’re a small market — needs to be as competitive as we can.”

It’s all about the timing.

Cuomo now says Bills stadium plan not “imminent,” acts like he’s not the one who raised it

It’s time again to play follow the bouncing Cuomo! To recap New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statements on funding a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills right after funding $227 million in renovations to the old one:

May 26, 2014: “If it was essential, I would support it.”

June 4, 2014: “I am very cautious about anything that would cost more money.”

August 10, 2014: “If we need a new stadium to keep the Bills here long term, that’s something that I’m interested in talking about.”

September 10, 2014: “I think the stadium with the renovations is doing very well.”

September 15, 2014: “The stadium’s good. Let’s stay right here for a while.”

And now yesterday:

A decision on whether and where to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills is not “imminent,’’ Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday in Buffalo.

After a state-funded report that the administration commissioned was released last month identifying possible sites for a new stadium, Cuomo signaled to reporters that resolution of the stadium issue is far from a burning issue for his administration.

““I’m not at a point where I have a preference … I think the location question is premature,’’ Cuomo said.

Right, it’s so not urgent that Cuomo had to appoint a state commission to investigate it. Clearly something is going on here — either the Bills’ new owners have signaled to Cuomo that they want to hush up all the stadium talk until it’s a better time, as the Buffalo News’s Tom Precious speculates, or Cuomo himself wants to wait until it’s a better time — but it’d take a state-commissioned investigation to find out what.

Buffalo voters split on whether taxpayers should spend anything on new Bills stadium

Okay, so now the Buffalo News has reported on what voters told pollsters about whether they’d support public funding for a Bills stadium, and it’s not quite as rosy as last week’s reports on how many people just like new stadiums in general:

In a random scientific poll that showed a clear majority favoring a new facility and a downtown location for it, some 48 percent of voters polled said taxpayers should pay some of the costs for the Bills’ new home. That’s exactly the same percentage of people who said the public should pay none of the costs.

None of the 505 voters surveyed between Jan. 20 and 21 said the public should pay the total cost of a new football palace, which is expected to cost upward of $1 billion. And only 1 percent said the public should pay most of the costs.

This is no surprise, of course — if anything, it’s a bit puzzling that that many people would voluntarily say that they should be on the hook for part of the cost of a stadium, though I suppose years of “public-private partnership” talk has softened up the populace, especially when the question is just whether “some” of the costs should be borne by taxpayers. (“Some? Does that include one dollar? I could be in for one dollar.”) In fact, a better question — or set of questions — would have been “Would you still support a Bills stadium if the public is asked to pay X% of the costs?” since that’s likely to be the decision that local lawmakers will need to decide on. Maybe next poll, if there is a next poll.

Buffalo poll finds voters want new downtown Bills stadium, neglects to ask about paying for it

The Buffalo News has conducted a poll of county voters on a new Bills stadium, and they asked — oh, come on, what do you think they asked?

55 percent of all the people surveyed said the new stadium should be located downtown, while 40 percent favor Orchard Park, the poll found.

Apparently having run out of ways to send reporters out to cover where are we gonna build a new stadium oh boy oh boy, the News is now crowdsourcing this story.

Okay, the News did also ask Erie County voters whether they think the Bills should get a new stadium, and respondents supported that as well, 54-36%. And that’s all that anyone could want to know about public opinion on the project, right?

The survey of 505 Erie County registered voters offered a far different take on the stadium issue than some of the public dialogue about it, which has centered on concerns about financing the facility and the potential loss of the Bills’ tailgating tradition if the team were to move downtown.

Right, these people didn’t express concerns about how to finance construction of a new stadium, because … hey, did we forget to ask them if they thought the public should help the Bills pay for a new stadium? Aw, crap. Well, it probably wasn’t important anyway.

Buffalo News actually reports on Bills stadium funding plan, sky doesn’t fall

For anyone who’s read my coverage of the Buffalo News’s coverage of the Bills stadium plans, this will come as a bit of a shock, but: The News has actually run an article exploring how the stadium would be paid for! Not just where it would go! It’s a miracle!

Okay, so “explored” may be pushing things. The article in question mostly just runs down the projected cost of a stadium (“around $1 billion”), then how much other cities have spent on subsidizing stadiums (“direct public costs associated with those projects ranged from zero to 90 percent”), then alleges that “recent history” shows NFL teams and other private sources like PSL and naming-rights sales are starting to pay a bigger share of costs (not true according to Judith Grant Long’s figures, but maybe if you only count “direct public costs,” okay), and we get:

Unless the Bills’ new billionaire owner breaks with tradition, taxpayers in some way will be on the hook if a new stadium is built.

Still, this is an actual article that cites people on various sides of the stadium-funding question (including both E.J. McMahon of the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy and Ron Deutsch of the progressive Fiscal Policy Institute, both of whom oppose stadium subsidies for the Bills), and talks a bit about both the economics and politics of any deal. If this is the start of a new era in actual reporting by the News, then Buffalo citizens (and New York state citizens, since the state is talking about kicking in a chunk of the stadium cost) will be well-served. If it’s just a momentary blip and the News now feels comfortable going back to “Where will the new stadium go?” every other week … well, let’s try to stay glass-half-full, shall we?

Bills owners say new stadium needed to be “competitive,” whatever that means

New Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula have made it official: They want to build a new stadium! Or have someone build them a new stadium. Or the NFL wants them to have a new stadium. Or something. Someday.

“Well, there’s going to be a new stadium somewhere, that’s all I know,” Terry Pegula said. “The league was pretty emphatic that Buffalo — we’re a small market — needs to be as competitive as we can.”

The one answer the Pegulas couldn’t provide yet is a location, timeline or how the costs of a new stadium will be split.

The Pegulas stressed they’re in no rush after the Bills’ current home, Ralph Wilson Stadium, underwent $140 million in renovations this off-season.

There’s that word “competitive” again — as those of you who’ve read our book may recall, this is part of the standard stadium playbook, though as Detroit stadium activist Frank Rashid pointed out, it’s seldom specified whether this means “competitive on the field, or the business is competitive, or what. But it suffices, because nobody asks what they mean by it. There’s never a follow-up question.”

Also not asked: How anyone knows that a new stadium would help the Bills be competitive when no one knows how much it would cost or who would pay for it. (One of the keys to making money on an investment is having the amount you spend be less than the amount you get back in new revenues. Actually, the only key.)

These would all be excellent followup questions, and the Buffalo News had a whole exclusive interview with the Pegulas to do it in, and … nope. Though we did get this tidbit from Terry:

“Sports are important. I saw it in Pittsburgh. I saw Pittsburgh transform itself from a smelly, dingy steel town to Renaissance One, and I believe there was a Renaissance Two. And championships both in football and baseball, and everybody’s head all of sudden lifted up.”

Owner of two pro sports franchises thinks sports are important. Stop the freaking presses.

Western NY voters oppose subsidies for Bills stadium by more than 3-to-1 margin

After much asking of where a new Buffalo Bills stadium should be built, somebody finally asked local residents if they think their tax dollars should help pay for one. And the answer was resoundingly negative:

The poll found 71 percent of all respondents were opposed, 21 percent in favor and 5 percent undecided. That likely comes as little surprise, given the challenges facing western New York, and a national economy emerging from recession with a disgruntled electorate.

“When we’re having the problems that we’re having, that (a new football stadium) is kind of ridiculous,” said poll respondent Carol Saj, 74, of Penfield. “We just put a ton of money into the one that’s up there.”

This wasn’t the Buffalo News doing the poll, of course, because the Buffalo News doesn’t admit that whether to build a new stadium is even a question that should be asked in polite company. Rather, it was the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which hired a polling firm to do a telephone poll of 500 Monroe County registered voters.

[EDIT: As should have been obvious to me when I wrote this, the D&C not only isn’t in Buffalo, but didn’t even poll Buffalo voters — Buffalo is in Erie County, not Monroe. (Rochester is in Monroe.) That makes this telephone poll even more feeble, though it’s still marginally relevant in that it’s all New York state taxpayers who are expected to foot at least part of the bill for a new stadium, just as they did with the renovations to the current one.]

The D&C blames the recent NFL domestic violence and brain injury scandals for the stadium’s poor showing, but really, it should come as no surprise, as New York taxpayers just paid a bundle for renovations to the Bills’ old stadium, and even that was pretty unpopular. You’d almost think that voters are generally opposed to public subsidies for private sports venues — but nah, nobody around the newsroom thinks like that, so that can’t be right.

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.