There has been a great deal of talk recently about whether Buffalo can afford a National League expansion franchise.
At this point we are working to answer those questions during lease negotiations with the City of Buffalo and County of Erie.
Since we purchased the Buffalo Bisons eight years ago, we have put much of our energies behind positioning Buffalo as a leading candidate for a major league baseball expansion franchise.
We have often said we would take the franchise as far as the fans of this area want to go. The overwhelming support from the greatest baseball fans any team could wish for -- three straight seasons of over 1 million tickets sold, 9,000 season tickets sold -- has attracted considerable attention from major league baseball owners.
How seriously they take us will be evident later this month when a short list of candidates for expansion is announced.
While we remain committed to bringing major league baseball to Buffalo, we have said that we do not believe in baseball at any cost. The economics must make sense not just for us personally, but for the City of Buffalo, County of Erie, and especially for our fans.
The fact is that the economics of baseball have changed considerably in the past few months since we made our formal presentation to the National League expansion committee in September. While the $95 million expansion fee has not been reduced:
Unemployment is nearing a 10-year high as the economy of the state and nation cools down.
National television ratings for baseball have dropped so precipitously that CBS has asked for money back from major league baseball.
The cost of free agent signings has gone through the roof in just the last few weeks. The number of mediocre players earning $1 million is at an all-time high -- with no end in sight.
We are now working in close partnership with the city and county to determine whether in light of these new factors the price tag for expansion may simply be too high, prohibiting favorable lease terms major league baseball expects and we need to operate a stable franchise. We will not make this decision lightly.
Like the rest of Buffalo, we'll be waiting eagerly for major league baseball's short list. Our inclusion on that list will confirm the positive impression we have made -- but it will not change the question that we face:
Is baseball expansion economically feasible at this point and time?
But even our exclusion from the list would not put an end to our quest. Expansion is not the only route we can take to bring big league baseball here.
Let us sum up by assuring the baseball fans of upstate New York: Our dream of bringing major league baseball to Buffalo is very much alive. But so is our resolve to make baseball affordable not only for the taxpayers of our city and county but for the fans who buy tickets as well.
BOB and MINDY RICH
Bison Baseball Inc.