BUFFALO, NY - In her latest assessment of a possible new stadium for the Buffalo Bills,
Team president Kim Pegula foresees a difficult path in terms of the finances, according to comments made by her to the Buffalo News.
The current lease for the Bills at New Era Field, which is 45 years old, has another five years to go and Pegula says the team is doing its due diligence toward the day when a decision on a new facility will have to be made.
“She cited the cost factors involving something that may cost in the range of more than $1.4 billion,” said Vic Carucci, a Buffalo News sportswriter who spoke with Pegula at the NFL meetings recently held in Atlanta.
“She also conveyed that a lot of the entities involved, both publicly and privately, aren't interested in contributing that kind of money…so she didn't sound very encouraged about that," Carucci told WGRZ-TV.
According to Carucci, Pegula also noted the cost of the stadium would approach or exceed the amount she and her husband paid to purchase the team a few years ago.
“[Pegula] said, ‘we don't have $1.5 billion just sitting around’," Carucci said.
Erie County owns the current stadium and leases it to the Bills.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz was unavailable to speak to us today, but in a tweet seemed to agree with Pegula’s assessment of things, writing: "Recently built stadiums are approaching $2 billion. That is a ridiculous amount of money to spend for just a stadium if you think about all the other needs a community has to address. I'm glad Kim Pegula said publicly what all with the team knew.”
Who Will Pay?
When the day comes to make some decisions, it is likely that New York State, through its taxpayers, will be called upon to foot a significant portion of the bill for the stadium, and that Empire State Development (ESD) will have a critical role.
In a statement to Channel 2, ESD President Howard Zemsky said, “Both the Governor and Empire State Development are very interested in keeping the Buffalo Bills in Western New York. But any discussion of potential state participation in financing a new stadium for the Bills is obviously premature while the Pegulas and their team are evaluating their own strategy. We look forward to engaging with the Pegulas at the appropriate time.”
In the past the state has ponied up a healthy portion of the costs for stadiums and arenas throughout New York, including the $130 million spent a few years ago to renovate New Era Field.
However, the state recently had to close a $4 billion deficit to pass a budget while Erie County and the City of Buffalo have financial concerns of their own.
“Still, I think you would see a substantial public involvement there," said Kevin Hardwick, a member of the Erie County Legislature who was among the lawmakers who approved the current stadium lease in 2012.
“A couple of years in government is an eternity. You can go from deficit to surplus back to deficit on the state level in no time at all, so a lot of this depends on what happens with the economy," Hardwick said.
It could also depend on whether an additional revenue stream can be found, and there just might be one...after a recent Supreme Court ruling allowed states to legalize wagering on sporting events, such as Bills games.
Taking a Gamble
It would likely be a safe bet that New York State would allow sports wagering only after the Governor and State Legislative leaders could hammer out an agreement on how to divvy the spoils from such a potentially lucrative pie.
This was similarly the case when the state finally got on board with Mixed Martial Arts and ride sharing…and may well be the case in the not so distant future if it legalizes recreational marijuana.
When asked about the possibility (should sports wagering be approved) that a designated portion of the revenue to the state be assigned to fund stadiums and arenas- where the teams people are betting on would be playing - Hardwick replied, “I think it would be excellent…you would have a dedicated source of funding."
He also wagered that, should such a scenario come about, county lawmakers would actively press their state legislative colleagues to make that so.
“This would be something that we would have a big stake in so, yes, I think you would see the Erie County Legislature weigh in on that," Hardwick said.