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COUNTY GETS BOOST FROM BILLS' SUCCESS EXTRA REVENUE PROJECTED FROM PLAYOFF GAMES, SALES TAXES

While Buffalo Bills fans dream of Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Erie County officials have visions of extra revenue from post-season games at Rich Stadium.

The county stands to receive about $125,000 from its share of ticket, parking and concession receipts for each playoff game at the county-owned stadium that the Bills lease from the county. With two such games possible, that adds up to $250,000.

In a year of drastic cuts in state aid, the prospect of playoff revenue has taken on increased importance.

"We need something like this to boost our spirits and our bank book," said Leonard R. Lenihan, County Legislature majority leader. "I doubt Marv Levy tells them, 'Go out and win this one for the Erie County budget,' but we certainly benefit."

Lenihan, D-Town of Tonawanda, chairman of the Legislature's Finance and Management Committee, said the Bills' winning streak couldn't have come at a better time.

County Budget Director Sheila K. Kee said the promise of additional revenue for the county coffers gives her another reason to be a Buffalo Bills booster.

"Of course it's great for the team and fans to have this much success," she said. "But it's also a boost to the county budget. And if we get a second post-season game, they'll really be helping us out."

County Executive Gorski admits he also calculated county revenues when it became clear that the Bills would have home-field advantage for two possible playoff games. "There's the intangible benefit of local pride in having the Bills in the playoffs again this year," Gorski said. "But I can't deny I'm delighted we'll be getting unbudgeted revenue. I'm ecstatic."

The $125,000 the county expects to receive for each game is an estimate based solely on receipts from tickets, parking and concessions, with nothing figured in for extra expenses, like added security or additional revenues from increased sales and bed tax revenues.

The ban on beer sales at the post-season games at Rich Stadium announced Thursday by Bills General Manager Bill Polian is expected to reduce the concession portion of those revenues, but county officials said they think the Bills are doing the right thing.

The county also will spend approximately $18,000 per game to put sheriff's deputies at and near the stadium to handle traffic the day of the game.

In addition to direct stadium revenues, the county also expects to benefit from spin-off economic activity that will boost sales and bed tax receipts. Every time a Bills fan buys a commemorative T-shirt, books a hotel room for playoff weekend or stocks up on pre-game party supplies the county receives extra revenues.

Ms. Kee said it's difficult to put an exact dollar value on indirect economic impact, but she knows it will be there.

"If you just think about sales of Bills T-shirts, you can see how the county benefits," she said.

"If a shirt sells for $12, we get 24 cents from the 8 percent sales tax for each one. Think of all the taxable purchases fans are likely to make, and you'll see it adds up."

Of the 8 cents collected on every dollar purchase, the state gets 4 cents, the county receives slightly more than 2 cents, and school districts, cities and towns get a little less than 2 cents.

Local stores have been hard-pressed to keep up with demand for the just-printed AFC East Championship sweat shirts.

Tim Halas, a menswear buyer with AM & A's, said the store sold 10,000 of the sweat shirts in a two-hour period.

"We haven't seen demand like this for Bills items since 1988. We're selling a lot," he said.

At $15.99 a sweat shirt, Bills fever generated $3,200 in sales tax revenues for the county in just two hours.

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