The Buffalo Bills football stadium should stay right where it is. In Orchard Park, not Buffalo.
That’s according to all three members of the Orchard Park Town Board who spoke in unanimous agreement at the end of their meeting Wednesday night.
“To put a billion dollars in a stadium, squeeze it into the city, makes no sense to me,” said Supervisor Patrick Keem, who said he was inundated with requests for comment Monday. “I don’t see a need for a new stadium at all.”
In spite of $160 million in renovations to the current Ralph Wilson Stadium that debuted this past September, the promise of a new city stadium seemed to outshine Orchard Park earlier this week when details of a California consultant’s report revealed three downtown Buffalo spots on its shortlist of new stadium options, along with the option of building a new stadium adjacent to the current one.
The Orchard Park site seemed eclipsed by all the attention paid to the downtown sites. While the subject was not on the Town Board agenda, the members could not help but address it Wednesday night.
“Keep it right here in Orchard Park and save at least $500 million,” Keem said. “There’s better uses for our money.”
Other board members raised other problems, including the snub by a county stadium search committee. The board wrote in May asking for one of them to be included on the panel. It didn’t get a reply.
“That strikes us not only as odd, but unjust,” Councilman Mike Sherry said.
The community has sacrificed in the decades that it hosted the stadium, paying overtime police costs and putting up with the traffic and crowd hassles on game days, he said. It also has reveled in the pleasures of hosting the team, like tailgate parties that have become family traditions.
To lose the stadium and the Bills would be like a child moving away. “The collective consciousness of our community would feel the pain,” Sherry said.
For Councilman Eugene Majchrzak, there’s also the problem of parking. Stadium cost estimates are not factoring in the expense of building enough new parking lots for the fans. “They will be well over $500 million,” he said.
It seemed strange to him that a new stadium would replace the current, expensively refurbished one. What would happen to the big empty building if the team left? He also wondered who the landowners were who would benefit from property sales for a new Buffalo stadium.
“We’re just going to turn away and go someplace else?” Majchrzak said. “I don’t get that.”