Should the public pay for stadiums?


The day is fast approaching when tough decisions will need to be made regarding the Buffalo Bills, their stadium needs and their future in this city.

In a small market city with an ownership that is (and will likely remain) budget conscious, the Bills are in a tough enough situation as it is. Not to mention the fact that Ralph Wilson Stadium is getting old fast, along with the stadium’s namesake. The proposed renovation plan is designed to keep the stadium at pace with others around the league, but it comes with a very large price tag.

Repairing the Ralph is beyond necessary. The entry gates are beyond dated and don’t accommodate crowds well. The bowl and sightlines remain unparalleled but the concourses are little more than narrow dungeons with few frills that are common at the other gleaming stadiums around the NFL.

Truthfully, the renovation will be little more than a stop gap for the team and stadium. Eventually a new building needs to go up. The only problem is finding the money to do so.

There will be more than enough trouble securing the funding to repair the Ralph this time around; and that includes using tax payer money. What is going to happen when the day finally comes and a new stadium is the only answer?

Regardless if a new stadium is built in Cheektowaga, Orchard Park, Batavia or the waterfront; it will be a serious chore to find funding for a stadium that will be $600 million or more.

What hangs in the balance is how any sort of money will be raised towards either renovations or a new stadium. What is guaranteed is that a major portion of that funding will be coming from public subsidy. Of course, there are more than enough people against such a decision.

The bottom line is that any stadium built will be leased by the team inhabiting it. Whether that be the Bills, Sabres or any other professional team. Unless you’re Jerry Jones and have more money than God – he may or may not be the living incarnation of Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate – you’re not going to be funding a new stadium without public funding. Is that right or is it wrong?

It probably isn’t right when the cards are on the table. You’re talking about tax payer money going towards a building that will house a private enterprise who uses said taxpayers as their customer base. Given how much money is made by the NFL in general, there is probably more than enough dough for a team to fully finance a stadium on their own. Hell, the Browns just got purchased for a cool billion.

However, considering that the lease of these buildings come from either the city or county pushes the need for public assistance into the equation. Regardless if it is right or wrong doesn’t negate the pressing need for such assistance.

Part of the reason I have no problem with the idea of the Bills – or another team – getting such assistance is because of their place with the community as a whole. Especially for a team like the Bills that almost has more of a social effect on the region as opposed to their results on the field, ensuring that most will be in support of such support.

Unlike a city like Glendale, most citizens of Buffalo would be incredibly upset should the Bills be lost. While many talk about their desire to trade the Bills for a Major League Baseball team or even a basketball team, the threat of losing the Bills would not come with any sort of exchange. Presented with the choice between public subsidy for a new stadium (or renovations) and the loss of their team, most Buffalonians would choose take the taxes. For that reason alone, I don’t see much issue with the need of governmental support when the day comes that the Ralph needs to be renovated.


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The Lord of Buffalo Wins