Terry Pegula says a new football stadium is “nothing urgent right now,” expressed no desire to sell naming rights on Ralph Wilson Stadium and called the last two Buffalo Sabres seasons “two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had.”
Those were the noteworthy points made during a “Business of Sports” breakfast held by Buffalo Business First Thursday at Buffalo RiverWorks.
The owner of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres was joined on the panel by his wife, Kim, owner/president, Pegula Sports & Entertainment, along with: Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of Delaware North and owner of the Boston Bruins; Robert E. Rich Jr., chairman of Rich Products Corp. and owner of the Buffalo Bisons; Rich’s wife, Mindy, president of the Rich Entertainment Group; and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and numerous high-powered NFL owners are on record in saying a new stadium eventually is necessary for Western New York. Pegula stuck to politically correct comments on the issue, given $130 million in renovations on Ralph Wilson Stadium just were completed last year.
“The only answer to that question is the state and county, there’s been a lot of money put into Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Pegula said. “We’re in no hurry. We realize that if that work was just done, how foolish would you look if you start looking around for a new stadium when we’ve just renovated the one we have? We have time. We have an existing lease on the current stadium.”
The Bills’ lease runs through the 2022 season.
Pegula was asked if he was confident the community will be supportive when the day comes you need to make a decision on the stadium.
“I hope so,” he said. “But it’s nothing urgent right now.”
On selling naming rights, Pegula said: “I am very cognizant of the fact that Ralph Wilson owned the Bills for so long and his name on the stadium is to me right now a special thing. I have a hard time answering that question.”
“Standing on the field for the first time was like do I even deserve to be here? Because that was quite an accomplishment,” Pegula said of Wilson’s 55-year ownership of the Bills.
Despite the fact the Sabres finished with the worst record in the NHL the past two years, Pegula expressed optimism about the franchise in the wake of its selection of Jack Eichel in the draft last month.
“People may not believe this,” Pegula said, “but I think our last two years were two of the most successful seasons we’ve ever had. We were rebuilding.”
“But trust me,” Pegula said, pointing to Jacobs, who was sitting next to him, “Jerry’s probably looking in his rear-view mirror now saying, ‘These guys may be coming.’ He’s up there, we’re down here. But that was part of the program. By the way, we love the way the whole community just seemed to get the plan and followed along with us.”
Some other highlights of the breakfast, on the lighter side:
• Terry Pegula said he has not been bombarded with stadium questions, but Kim interjected: “Actually you have. I just haven’t forwarded them to you.”
• Bob Rich, on how lucrative owning the Bisons is, quipped: “Well, it’s not as lucrative as fracking.”
• Rich also said that considering “No Goal,” he was surprised Bettman ever comes back to Buffalo. Rich then credited Bettman for fighting to keep the Sabres in Buffalo after their ownership collapse last decade, prompting applause from the crowd.