The Bills have been pushovers on the field for the past 16 playoff-barren years, but Terry Pegula isn’t rolling over in the NFL stadium game.
You’d think as the new billionaire on the NFL block, the Bills’ owner might bend to peer pressure. So it’s nice to see Pegula and Bills President Russ Brandon resist recent chatter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the “need” for a new Bills stadium.
As Brandon told The News’ Vic Carucci this week, the when – or if – of a new stadium will be done on the Bills’ and the community’s terms, not on the NFL’s timeline.
“We’re going to take a very slow, quantitative, objective view on what makes sense,” Brandon said.
In all views but the greed-infused ones of other NFL owners, there’s no pressing need for a new Bills’ playpen – particularly with a committed-to-Buffalo owner and seven years left on the lease. Ralph Wilson Stadium has excellent sightlines and another 20 years of structural shelf life. It recently underwent a $130 million face-lift – mostly at taxpayers’ expense – and, with its vast parking lots, is a tailgating paradise.
Vic Carucci: Bills won’t yield soon on new stadium
Sports economists agree new football stadiums, which consume significant acreage and sit unused some 350 days a year, are not economic drivers. Even the newer multipurpose models, incorporating everything from restaurants and banquet facilities to convention centers, displace or – at best – marginally enhance amenities already available in a community.
There’s a hefty price to pay for a new stadium, and not just in the inevitable taxpayer subsidy. There’s higher ticket costs, personal seat licenses (a fee for the “privilege” of buying season tickets), lofty prices for club seats and luxury suites and a bump in local advertising and sponsorship fees.
Despite the claims of Goodell, the $31 million-a-year frontman for NFL owners, the stadium game isn’t about the Bills’ continued ability to “compete” – not in a league in which a salary cap and a last-picks-first draft levels the playing field. No, the league’s relentless intent is to squeeze every available dollar out of every NFL city.
New stadiums mean more revenue, much of which is split among the owners. It’s largely why there was near-unanimous NFL owner approval of Stan Kroenke’s recent abandonment of St. Louis for the greener pastures of Los Angeles. The bigger pie in LA, where Kroenke is building a mega-stadium, means each of the other owners get a larger slice.
The problem for Buffalo, as Pegula and Brandon realize, is that there isn’t much more to squeeze. We’re among the nation’s poorest cities, a smaller market that lacks a single home-based Fortune 500 company. The Bills can barely fill the luxury suites they have now, much less sell more of them – at significantly higher prices – in a new ballpark.
“We are not LA,” Brandon told The News. “We are not Atlanta. We’re not Minneapolis, [which has] 28 Fortune 500 companies. We have to be a regional operation.”
That doesn’t mean the Bills, at some future date, won’t want or believe they need a new stadium. But it’s nice to hear Brandon and Pegula ignore peer pressure and say that if and when the time comes, it will be on their – and the community’s – terms.