Make Buffalo prototype for a fair stadium deal
Earlier this month, the New Stadium Working Group met to discuss the future home of our beloved Buffalo Bills. The best way to honor Ralph Wilson is to structure a deal that keeps the Bills in town, while not falling prey to the growing trend of unsustainable public stadium subsidies.
The NBA’s Miami Heat just cut its first profit-sharing check to Miami-Dade County in the 15 years since building a new stadium on the waterfront. By way of creative accounting, the team was able to skirt its obligation to the region of paying back 40 percent of profits. The dubious deal bilks the tax base of $6 million every year in subsidies for the $357 million venue.
Cobb County, Georgia, recently lured baseball’s Atlanta Braves by approving a 30-year stadium subsidy plan to the tune of $10 million per year. The county executive boasts that there will be no new property taxes for his constituents, only an unspecified “reallocation” of taxes.
Subsidizing stadium construction is a zero-sum arrangement. No new consumption is created – fans merely substitute entertainment spending from other avenues. Furthermore, any benefit of a new stadium, whether in Buffalo or Niagara Falls, is felt by the entire region, while much of the cost is saddled on a single municipality.
While Buffalo is not exactly flush with corporate suitors, the prospect remains that private dollars may be able to bridge the gap between a reasonable public subsidy and a new owner’s ambition. Perhaps Donald Trump will rise to the occasion. In the meantime, we must carve our own path to equitable stadium finance.