MAYOR GRIFFIN has got it right. As he stressed in his recent press conference, the owners of the Buffalo Sabres must put up some of their own moneyto help finance the construction of any new downtown arena.
That's our view, as we have said before. A stake by the owners of the National Hockey League club makes the construction of a new arena -- with 20,000 seats and an estimated cost of $100 million -- considerably more viable than without it.
And the bigger the direct investment by the Sabres' owners, the more viable the project looks.
Once upon a time the construction of these new pro-sports arenas was almost entirely public, paid for with taxpayer funds. No more. Private capital financed the new stadium for pro football in Miami and the pro-basketball arenas in Detroit, Milwaukee and Sacramento. The owners of two pro teams plan to share the financing of an arena in Chicago. Others mix public and private money. And some, believe it or not, make money.
Also, of course, the public resources in New York -- city, county and state -- are stretched to the limit. Loose change will be increasingly difficult to find, particularly if the recession hits hard locally and further strains the resources of taxpayers.
That doesn't preclude any and all public investment in projects like a new arena for the Sabres or an expanded Pilot Field for a major league baseball franchise. But it does limit the available public resources. It does put a premium on private capital.
In outlining plans for an arena last month, neither the Sabres' owners nor the team's financial consultant mentioned cash investment in the arena by the team owners themselves.
But Griffin expressed the reasonable sentiments of the community when he said, "We need the private sector to come and help. We have to have it."
And why not? The arena, like an expanded Pilot Field, stimulates interest and dollars for downtown. Under fertile conditions, it can be a productive public as well as private investment.
But it is the owners who stand to benefit the most. So it is fair that they also share in the risks and come up with substantial amounts of their own capital to invest in any new plant and equipment they consider essential for their own success.