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DOWNTOWN STADIUM IDEA ONLY THAT, AT LEAST FOR NOW

The Common Council went on record this week to begin discussions about a new downtown football stadium, but so far the idea seems more like a pipe dream and fodder for radio talk-show hosts.

The resolution, introduced by Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson, makes no mention of two key factors: how much a stadium would cost and, with the city and Erie County facing huge budget crises, who would pay for it.

The proposal apparently hasn't been discussed with the Buffalo Bills.

Instead, Thompson offered the resolution to try to kick-start downtown development, on the heels of luring a Bass Pro shop and talk of a new casino.

"This offers Buffalo an opportunity to get the dialogue started," Thompson said Tuesday in Council Chambers. "With all these things happening downtown, it's time for us to be proactive about the Buffalo Bills."

State Sen. Byron W. Brown, considered the front-runner in the mayoral sweepstakes, said any new stadium would require the interest of the Bills organization. The New York Jets are prepared to put up millions for a proposed stadium on Manhattan's West Side.

Scott Berchtold, Bills vice president for communications, declined comment.

"Certainly, it's an interesting dialogue to have," Brown said of Thompson's resolution. "I think a lot of questions would have to be answered before anything like this could move forward."

The Bills are midway through a 15-year lease with the county for Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, with eight more seasons to go until it expires after the 2012 season. After the signing of the lease, the stadium got a $63.25 million face-lift, including new indoor and outdoor club seats.

Brown, a political ally of Thompson's, said he had no role in this proposal.

With the state being asked to help pay for the Jets stadium, Brown said, serious discussions have been held in Albany about a similar "upstate economic development" pool of money. But a new football stadium for Buffalo has not been mentioned, he said.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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