The Buffalo Bills stadium battle has been simmering for a while, but now it finally has what it’s been missing: a grandiose, hugely expensive plan for a new stadium with a retractable roof. According to the Buffalo News, a company called Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex — which formed early this year and is based in Delaware, giving new meaning to “greater Buffalo” — will today present the city Common Council with a plan for a $1.4 billion development project that would include a 72,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium, on land owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
Obviously, $1.4 billion is quite a bit more than the $200 million that the Bills were talking about for a renovation of Rich Stadium, so where would the money come from? According the the News, GBS&EC vice president George Hasiotis helpfully explained that while
it was premature to talk about financing a stadium but that based on other stadium projects across the country, it was reasonable to expect the State of New York to pay about $400 million, the NFL $200 million to $400 million. Such a project would bring in hundreds of millions for the construction trades, since 10,000 such jobs were expected to be generated, he said.
Well, yes, if you spend $1.4 billion on construction, it’d be hard not to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction industry. Ah, the wonders of “economic activity.”
In any event, those “reasonable” figures are likely to raise some eyebrows both in Albany and at NFL headquarters: $400 million is more than the state has kicked in for another other recent stadium project, and the NFL’s G-4 stadium fund caps out at $200 million per team. Plus, the project would apparently require an “option” on 167 acres of harborfront property owned by the state-run Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which it’s not clear whether GBS&EC would pay for.
Still, if nothing else, Buffalo now has a stalking horse notable enough to make the newspaper, which if nothing should be enough to make $200 million for renovations look cheap by comparison. As I’ve noted many times before, half the battle for teams seeking stadiums is shifting the debate from whether to build something to how and where to build something, and by that measure, even overpriced vaportecture is an important first step.