Buffalo News: We will bombard you with mixed metaphors until Bills agree to demand a $1B stadium

The Buffalo Bills stadium situation is a weird one, with the team’s owners Kim and Terry Pegula insisting a new building isn’t a priority for them, while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and especially the Buffalo News have insisted that they do too need one, and soon! And in the wake of Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz saying that a new Bills stadium would cost $1 billion, which would be too rich for the public’s blood, the News editorial board has doubled down to insist: Oh, yes, there will be a new stadium. No, really, that’s what the editorial was titled, and it went on to say:

Does Buffalo want to remain in the football business?

We say yes to that, also. And to stay here long-term, the Bills will inevitably need a new stadium. The price for one will be likely more than $1 billion….

The current county lease on New Era Field will run out in five years. The Pegulas and Poloncarz are starting to stake out positions and float trial balloons. The balloons may not be full of hot air, but they should not be taken as anything more than conversation starters. The closer we get to the deadline on the lease expiring, the more serious the talks will get.

That … is a very confusing metaphor there (hot air normally means it shouldn’t be taken seriously, but hot air is what makes hot-air balloons fly and oh my brain). And the News editorial board, whose members presumably got their position because of long experience with the written word, didn’t stop there:

Some people keep their old car until it falls apart, but as a region we can’t afford to drive this stadium into the ground.

No no no when you drive something into the ground that’s “drive” as in driving a stake not a car, and anyway stadiums don’t have moving parts so they don’t wear out like cars do, oh just never mind.

In any event, readers can skip to the last paragraph of the editorial, which goes like so:

The Bills are part of our civic fabric and if we have to pony up some tax dollars or added ticket fees to keep the team from becoming the Portland or St. Louis Bills, that’s the cost of remaining a major-league city.

You better help pay for a $1 billion stadium that your elected officials say you can’t afford and that the team’s owners aren’t demanding, or else your team will move to one of two cities that have shown no interest in building new NFL stadiums, so there! The editorial writers seem to have forgotten that Buffalo would still have the Sabres even if the Bills moved to Oshkosh or Boise, but these guys were clearly on a roll, so don’t confuse them with facts, okay?

Friday roundup: Chargers L.A. move still a disaster, Raiders still lack 2019 home, Rays still short of stadium cash

I’ve been busy getting my post-Village Voice life rolling this week — here’s my first article for Gothamist, on how to fight Amazon’s monopoly power, and I’ve also started a Twitter account for following ex-Voice news writers as we keep up our work for other outlets — but Friday mornings are sacred, for they are stadium and arena news roundup time:

Friday update: Bad D.C. arena math, bad Bucks arena math, bad Columbus ticket tax math

It must be September, because my TV is filled with Jim Cantore and Anderson Cooper standing ankle-deep in water. But anyway:

  • Washington, D.C., is about to open its new Mystics home arena and Wizards practice facility, and Mayor Muriel Bowser says it’s a model of how the city would build a new NFL stadium as well. “We know [sports] can help our bottom line by attracting people to our city, but it also has a big impact when we’re winning on our collective psyche,” says Bowser of an arena that got $50 million in public subsidies for two teams that were already playing in D.C. anyway. Maybe she should go back to using her terrible soccer stadium deal as a model instead.
  • People in Calgary are starting to ask whether, if the city is looking to spend $3 billion on hosting the 2026 Olympics, maybe it should build a new Flames arena as part of the deal? Camels, man.
  • Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula says she’s going to wait until after the gubernatorial elections this November to start negotiating a new stadium with whoever ends up in charge of the state. It won’t be the lox-and-raisin-bagel lady.
  • Speaking of the Pegulas and New York’s current governor, they’re planning an $18 million upgrade of Rochester’s arena that hosts the Rochester Americans minor-league hockey team (which the Pegulas also own), with costs to be split among the owners and city and state taxpayers. Split how? Sorry, no room in the Associated Press article, ask again later!
  • The AP did find time to fact-check Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena would return three dollars in new taxes for each one spent, and found that “Walker omits some of the state money spent on the 20-year arena deal and relies on income tax estimates that experts call unreliable.” I could’ve told them that — in fact, I did, three years ago.
  • “‘Ticket tax’ proposal could lead to higher prices on movies, theater, sports in Columbus” reads a headline on ‘s website, something that the station’s reporter asserts in the accompanying video without saying where he got it from. He’s at least partly wrong: Ticket prices are already set as high as the market will bear, so unless the ticket tax changes the market — in other words, unless people in Columbus are forced to spend more on movies and theater and such because the other options (staying at home and watching TV, going out to eat) aren’t good enough, mostly this will just mean prices will stay roughly the same but a bigger share will go to theater/team owner’s tax bills. (I could try to find an economist to estimate exactly how big a share, but isn’t that really WSYX’s job?)
  • Former Oakland A’s exec Andy Dolich says the team owners may be looking at buying both the Howard Terminal site and the Oakland Coliseum site, and using the revenues from one to pay the costs of prepping the other for baseball, which, if the Coliseum site is such a cash cow and Howard Terminal such a money pit, wouldn’t they be better off just buying the Coliseum site and developing that? Or is the idea that Oakland would somehow give up the Coliseum site at a discounted price in order to get a new A’s stadium done? I have a lot of math questions here.
  • With nobody wanting to spend $250 million on a major renovation of Hartford’s arena, the agency that manages the XL Center is now looking for a $100 million state-funded upgrade instead. Still waiting to hear whether this would actually generate $100 million worth of new revenues for the arena; if not, the state would be better off just giving the arena a pile of cash to subsidize its bottom line, no?
  • Cobb County is only letting the Atlanta Braves owners out of part of the $1.5 million they owed on water and sewer costs for their new stadium. Yay?

Friday roundup: The news media are collectively losing their goddamn minds edition

It’s a full slate this week, so let’s do this!

Bills co-owner says they may not even want a new stadium, give them a couple of years to decide

The Buffalo Bills stadium-replacement discussion has been taking a rather weird course, as NFL stadium talks go, with team owners Terry and Kim Pegula generally refusing to demand anything, even while other league owners and commissioner Roger Goodell insist that the Bills gotta have one. Now Kim Pegula has talked to the Buffalo News about her perspective on the matter, and she still doesn’t sound super-stoked:

“I don’t even know if we can get there,” the team’s co-owner told The Buffalo News while attending the NFL spring meeting. “I know fans in Buffalo don’t want higher ticket prices, they don’t want PSLs (personal seat licenses). The state doesn’t want to give you any money, the city doesn’t … We don’t have a billion-and-a-half dollars sitting around. We used it to buy the team.”

These are good reasons not to build a new stadium! If you’re not going to be able to charge fans more in ticket prices or PSLs, it’s kind of dumb to drop around a billion dollars on replacing the perfectly acceptable stadium you already play in, especially if it’s a billion dollars of your own money and not New York taxpayers. (And speaking on behalf of New York taxpayers, it would be even more dumb for us to pay for it.) Even if all the other kids have one.

Pegula said it could take a “couple of years” to reach a final stadium determination, and that ultimately “it may be nothing happens, it may be we make renovations, it may be that we build a new stadium. But we’ve got to get the information first.” Again, all very reasonable and honest about the decisions to be made. Man, Roger Goodell must hate her.

Friday roundup: Rangers to keep empty ballpark, football Hall of Fame seeks bailout, Goodell dreams of a new Bills stadium

Happy baseball season! Unless you’re a Miami Marlins fan, in which case it’s already ruined. But anyway:

Montreal stadium used for refugees from U.S., isn’t this a scene in “Handmaid’s Tale”?

Lightning round!

  • Boise is all in a tizzy over plans to build a minor-league soccer stadium, because it would get a property-tax exemption. This is the kind of subsidy that people don’t usually notice unless they’re the mayor of Minneapolis, so good on Boise.
  • We finally have a due date for proposals for developing land near Belmont Park that the New York Islanders owners have targeted for a possible new arena: September 30. Tune back in then, and maybe we’ll see what they have in mind, and how they hope to pay for it.
  • Louisville is moving ahead with plans to refinance its debt on its disastrous arena deal. This won’t help a ton — the arena deal will still be a disaster — but even stanching the flow of red ink slightly is something, I suppose.
  • El Paso is involved in a court case over whether they’re allowed to hold sporting events at their new arena, because the bonds it used can’t be used for “sports facilities” and — know what, just read about it yourself, it’s too insane to describe in detail here.
  • The mayor of St. Petersburg is “intrigued” by the idea of building a new soccer stadium on the site of Tropicana Field if the Rays move out, something he apparently neglected to discuss with the local would-be MLS team owner first.
  • Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula is still refusing to demand a new stadium, despite the NFL really wanting him to.
  • Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is now being used as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers fleeing Trump’s America. There are undoubtedly many, many jokes to be made here — that’s what the comment section is for, so have fun!

Three sports venues get new corporate names that you’re going to forget immediately

Lots of old sports venues getting new names this week!

The price tags on the Buffalo deal was $40 million for seven years; no money changed hands in Charlotte, obviously, while the Dolphins declined to say how much they got for 18 years of their stadium name. I’m guessing not much, since nobody is going to remember this corporate name any better than the last five or six, but maybe since they just did a renovation, people will think of it as a new building with a new name?

Anyway, the fact that naming rights are worth more for a brand-new, nameless venue continues to be an incentive for teams to demand them. It’s probably not the best thing from an environmental sustainability standpoint that teams and cities are building stadiums partly just to act as giant billboards, but I can’t complain too much so long as it does allow them to fob off some costs on another sucker.

Bills owners sell naming rights to publicly owned stadium, pocket cash

The Buffalo Bills owners have sold the naming rights to Ralph Wilson Stadium for an undisclosed sum to New Era Cap Company, and immediately took down the lettering with the old name:

This made many Bills fans unhappy that the stadium will no longer be named for the team’s founding owner:

We’ve seen this before in other cities, of course. What’s odd here is that Ralph Wilson Stadium isn’t the building’s original name: From 1973 to 1997 it was Rich Stadium, named for a local food company in one of the first naming-rights deals in pro sports. When that deal expired and Rich Products wouldn’t agree to an increased rights fee, Erie County instead named it after the Bills’ owner.

Wilson died in 2014, and somewhere along the way, so did the county’s ownership of the naming rights, as it appears new owners Terry and Kim Pegula will be pocketing whatever cash comes from this deal, even though Erie County still owns the building. It seems like that’d be more worth getting upset over, but there’s no accounting for football fans.

 

Bills exec: New stadium wouldn’t help us, because Buffalo fans can’t afford pricey seats

Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon gave a long interview to the Buffalo News yesterday in which he gave a good explanation of team owner Terry Pegula’s puzzling reticence to demand a new stadium like Roger Goodell and the rest of the league would like him to do. In short: A new stadium with luxury suites and all that wouldn’t help them much, because Buffalo.

“We have not met and discussed anything relative to all the noise,” Bills managing partner and President Russ Brandon said of the New Stadium Working Group, formed two years ago, that includes state and local political leaders. “We have not met since April (2014), right after (previous team owner) Ralph (Wilson) passed away, on a new stadium.

“We’re going to take a very slow, quantitative, objective view on what makes sense.”…

“We have made the model work on the Bills side, based on how we have built the business from a volume standpoint,” Brandon said. “So you have a lot of tickets in the building, general-admission seats in the building, 6,800 club seats, a lot of suites and price points have been fairly manageable, amongst the lowest in the league. As we go through market-condition studies and different things that you do when you look at things, like we’ve done previously with renovations, and as you update that information, you have to look and see what makes sense.

“The key is to realize that we are not LA. We are not Atlanta. We’re not Minneapolis. People say, ‘Oh, we’re very similar to Minneapolis.’ They have 28 Fortune 500 companies in that community. We have zero. We have to be a regional operation. We know that. That’s proven.

“But with a new stadium comes new economics. And with new economics comes a public-private partnership, (personal seat licenses), a lot of infrastructure cost. So we have to look at it in a very macro view and make sure that, as a community and as an organization, that there’s a partnership that exists that makes sense.”

There’s a lot to unpack there, but this is the first time I can recall a pro sports team owner arguing, Hey, our fans don’t have enough money to buy all the high-priced seats that a new stadium would give us, so what’s the point? Trying to make money on volume rather than by focusing on extracting as much money as possible from deep-pocketed fans goes against the sports tide in the post-Reagan economy, but it’s not hard to believe that Buffalo might still be a different world in this regard. (Though it’s also possible that Brandon and Pegula are just waiting for “a partnership that makes sense,” aka an appetite for more public money that would make a new stadium worth their while.)

The real question now is why Goodell keeps beating the new-stadium drum when the Bills owners don’t want him to. Is it because he thinks the league would somehow make more money even if the Bills owners are convinced they wouldn’t? Because having Buffalo in an old stadium hurts the argument of other team owners that they can’t possibly survive in their 20-year-old place? Because it doesn’t look shiny enough on TV? Because he’s just so used to playing bad cop that he can’t get out of character? All of the above? Your guess is as good as mine.