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Bills, politicians on same page with new stadium talk

During his recent visit to Western New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters and editors at The Buffalo News that building a new stadium for the Bills wasn't a pressing issue for him.

Not long before that, Bills president Russ Brandon also pumped the brakes on the topic during the News-sponsored Prospectus Premiere event. Brandon said a new stadium would have to "make sense for our community and it has to have a macro appeal to our fan base."

That those similar lines of thinking are being shared in public is hardly a coincidence.

The knee-jerk reaction to the St. Louis Rams' move back to Los Angeles, where in 2019 they will play in what is being touted as the ultimate palace for an NFL team, is its impact on teams playing in old stadiums. Teams like the Bills -- and the taxpayers who foot part of the bill for those facilities.

It makes perfect sense to wonder about how much pressure the league will put/is putting on Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula to follow up their $1.4-billion investment to keep the team from leaving Buffalo with a new stadium that would carry a similar price tag because it would help generate more revenue for the rest of the owners.

Related: State study focuses on three Buffalo sites for Bills stadium

But from every indication I've received from those at the top of the Bills' organization, there is virtually no desire to move forward at any time in the foreseeable future with plans to build a downtown palace of their own. Despite considerable speculation on that front, the idea hasn't been met with a whole lot of enthusiasm from the Pegulas -- league pressure or not.

Brandon revealed plenty about the team's mindset when he used the word "practical" to describe how it needed to proceed on the stadium issue.

I can tell you that the collective view of Brandon and the Pegulas is that they don't see the economic sense of building something that, one, would push ticket prices well beyond the threshold of a market where the cost of going to games has long resided near the bottom of the NFL, and, two, would require filling luxury suites that will be far more expensive to fill than ones that the team has struggled to keep occupied in an area devoid of the large companies needed to support them.

Yes, with the lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium not due to expire until 2023, it's easy for politicians and the Bills' ownership to address the topic of a new stadium without much urgency.

But it also seems to accurately reflect the sense on both sides that, after investing $130 million in renovations at The Ralph, staying in Orchard Park is a long-term solution that works best for everyone.

 

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