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AUGUST 12 - AUGUST 20, 2014

Will Taxpayers Get Socked for New Stadium?

By Tony Farina

August 12, 2014

We don't know yet who will win the Bills' sweepstakes among the bidders for the NFL team, but we do know that whoever takes over for Ralph Wilson will pick up right where he left off, pocketing millions in profits no matter where the team finishes, just like Wilson did for all those years.

The NFL is can't miss, the most lucrative sports league known to man that, according to Forbes, generated $9 billion in revenues last season with teams worth an average of more than $1 billion although the magazine has pegged the Bills' worth at a little below that mark at a mere $870 million.

But the billionaire owners want even more money, and they have made it clear through NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (who, by the way, makes nearly $30 million a year), that in order for the Bills to stay viable in Buffalo, a new, state-of-the art stadium with all the money-making amenities will have to be built. More renovation of the old stadium won't suffice.

That news comes as taxpayers are already on the hook for close to $100 million in stadium renovation work as part of the new stadium deal that guaranteed the team will stay here for at least six years before a new owner could break the lease and move for a mere pittance in NFL terms, $28 million.

How much more will taxpayers, especially those who don't care much about the Bills, be willing to pay to keep the owners happy? One thing that is know is that all new stadiums come with taxpayer help, but according to a recent national survey, the public is starting to get tired of the load.

In a column earlier this year in the Star-Ledger, Tom Wright-Piersanti reported from a survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University's Public Mind that even though more than half of the respondents identified themselves as NFL fans, 69 percent said they opposed the use of public funds to build stadiums. And 71 percent said they disagreed with using tax breaks to attract a team.

The director of Public Mind, Krista Jenkins, said even teams (like Buffalo) who don't make it to the Super Bowl generate millions from licensing and ticket sales. She added in commenting on the survey "that the public says taxpayers shouldn't be hit up for support when there's enough in the NFL coffers to pay their own way."

It remains to be seen what happens here, but most likely there are a lot of people who like the NFL and the Bills but who believe, like many in that survey, that public financing and tax breaks are not the way to go. And there are probably a lot of people who don't care about the team and don't want to pay more taxes to keep it here.

We'll have to see what develops and who ends up with the team, but it appears that the NFL won't settle for less when it comes to making money and taxpayers are likely going to have to subsidize the Bills to keep the franchise here. That might not be an easy sell to beleaguered taxpayers who have already paid plenty to keep the Bills here.

My hope is that the new ownership will somehow shoulder the burden of a new stadium, but I have my doubts. The thinking may be that the public will come up if it means keeping the team. That thinking may be right.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
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Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
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