The guessing game
The National Football League has made it clear that it wants a new, modern football stadium for the Buffalo Bills. Consultants hired by the state examined 13 potential sites from Batavia to Niagara Falls and settled on three or four recommended sites, all of them in Erie County – with the caveat that none of the recommendations are binding on the team’s new owner. The consultants haven’t publicly identified the three or four sites, except to say that at least one is near downtown Buffalo. Here are the locations that have been most often mentioned over the past few months:
1. Downtown Buffalo
Sites near downtown Buffalo’s booming Canalside offer easy access, existing parking, a potential tie-in with Metro Rail and a large market for nonfootball activities, from year-round dining to event space to a convention center. A near-Canalside site would also put the stadium near prospective Bills owner Terry Pegula’s two existing properties. He controls First Niagara Center, where his National Hockey League Buffalo Sabres play, and he is building the $172 million HarborCenter hotel and hockey complex next to First Niagara Center. Developer and Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino mentions a specific downtown location: a site stretching along South Park Avenue roughly from Louisiana Street to Ohio Street, some of which Paladino owns.
2. Orchard Park
Cost-conscious government leaders suggest an extensive renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium – or building a new stadium on county-owned land adjacent to the existing stadium. A new stadium in Orchard Park would have the high cost of a new stadium but in a location that limits nonfootball use; it has been mentioned less in recent months. The NFL has repeatedly thrown cold water on further renovating the Ralph, contending that even an extensive renovation is unlikely to meet the team’s needs.
3. West Seneca
Syracuse developer Scott R. Congel has discussed building a domed stadium and mixed-use complex of hotels, offices and other developments on the 55-acre former Seneca Mall site. Congel has hired HKS Sports and Entertainment Inc., one of the nation’s top designers of multipurpose sports stadiums, to work on the project. (The firm also designed an outer harbor proposal advanced by a group featuring Amherst businessman George F. Hasiotis.) The West Seneca site is located at the confluence of three freeways.
4. Buffalo’s Central Terminal
The long-closed rail terminal on Buffalo’s East Side, considered an architectural gem, has been mentioned by developer Paul Ciminelli as a potential stadium site. He envisions trains shuttling Bills fans into town from as far away as Toronto and Syracuse. A large amount of vacant or unused land is nearby. But like the current Orchard Park location, the site is far from other amenities.
5. Buffalo’s outer harbor
The outer harbor has stunning vistas, abundant vacant land and a vote of support from the Buffalo Common Council. But it also has two potentially crippling disadvantages: Only one road leads in and out, and several key figures seem dead-set against the site. According to a source familiar with the consultants’ report, the outer harbor wasn’t one of the consultants’ recommended sites because of the transportation hurdles.
6. Niagara Falls
The lure of a Niagara Falls stadium is its proximity to Southern Ontario and Toronto. The Bills’ core market is the second smallest in the NFL; luring more fans from Rochester, Syracuse and Southern Ontario is seen as essential. The two biggest obstacles: the psychic cost of locating the team outside the core Buffalo market and the difficulty of moving tens of thousands of fans across bridges. According to a source familiar with the consultants’ report, Niagara Falls wasn’t one of the consultants’ recommended sites because of the transportation hurdles.
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