That title is a bit misleading in that I'm certain people will be talking about this decision for years to come. It is accurate insofar as this is the last time I'm going to talk about it. Once I get this off my chest I'll move on.
First, full disclosure: I'm no longer much of a football fan, so my opinions about the stadium deal are likely biased. There was a time when I watched every game, but after spending the fall of 2015 in a Cleveland hospital bed where the only game on TV was the lowly Browns, I realized I didn't miss it. I found it was nice to have my Sunday afternoons back to do other things.
So, here goes:
- It's obviously crazy for taxpayers to subsidize what's essentially a billionaire's playground, but I understand what the Bills bring to the area, in emotional if not economic terms, and I think the financial arrangements are about as good a deal as we could have gotten. I'm especially glad the Pegulas (the team's owners) are on the hook for any cost overruns during construction, which I expect to be significant in light of supply chain and global economic issues. Still, it's hard to swallow throwing tax dollars at owners and a league that rake in billions every year.
- The new stadium is being built in the wrong place. Despite the fact that a South Park site in the city scored the highest in the Pegula's own study, they've insisted on building it in the middle of nowhere. Granted, building in Orchard Park will be cheaper and quicker, meaning the Pegula's and the NFL's contributions will be smaller, and they can reap the financial benefits that much sooner, but it does nothing for the Western New York community at large. Building it in the city would cost more and take longer, but the overall economic payoff, as outlined in the team's study, would be much greater. Thus, the new stadium joins a famous list of failed opportunities, from putting the University of Buffalo campus in the suburbs, to cutting an expressway through the heart of the East Side and destroying an Olmstead Parkway in the process.
- It is hard to blame the owners for doing what's in their best financial interests, but one aspect of their plan—to partner with and benefit financially from the exploding sports gambling market—is especially appalling. Gambling addiction leads to increases in bankruptcies, family breakups, and even suicide. Yet, the Pegula's plan includes a provision to make it easier for fans in the new stadium to gamble on the game. Kim Pegula said (paraphrasing now) that while she isn't morally for gambling, their study identified it as a new revenue source, so they'll embrace it. Apparently, for the right price she's willing to hold her nose and take the money.
That's all I've got.
Thanks for reading this far.