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Plurality picks Batavia for Bills stadium

Rochester Business Journal
May 23, 2014

One-third of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say Batavia would be the best site for a Buffalo Bills stadium to ensure the team’s long-term viability in Western New York.

Regardless of location, more than half say taxpayers should not help pay for a new stadium.

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell has said he believes a new stadium for the team is a must.

The state hired AECOM, a California-based architectural and design firm, to identify three to four sites in the region that might become the team’s new home. Speculation has focused on possible sites in downtown Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Batavia.

However, the feasibility of renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium, the team’s home since 1973, also will be studied. The Bills and local and state government officials signed a 10-year lease agreement in December 2012 that included $130 million in upgrades to the stadium. The cost was shared by state taxpayers ($54 million), Erie County ($41 million) and the Bills ($35 million).

What New York and local governments might spend toward a new stadium has not been stated.

The AECOM report is due in July. A new team owner reportedly could be selected by the estate of longtime Bills owner Ralph Wilson by the end of that month.

Roughly 745 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted May 19 and 20.

In your view, which stadium site for the Buffalo Bills would do most for the team’s long-term viability in Western New York?
Batavia: 33%
Downtown Buffalo’s outer harbor: 29%
Orchard Park (renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium): 28%
Niagara Falls: 5%
Other: 5%

If a new stadium is built for the Bills, should New York taxpayers help pay for it?
Yes: 44%
No: 56%

COMMENTS:
Ideally, all new stadiums should be paid for by their users, but sports socialism is a way of life since the Dodgers were lured to Los Angeles in the ’50s. Putting a new stadium between the railroad and the Thruway would open the market east to Albany, and it would still be accessible to Southern Ontario and Southwestern New York.
—Carlos Mercado

Western and Central New York does not want to lose being part of the NFL. The Bills are a big part of what makes Rochester, Buffalo and Western New York unique. When they are good, Buffalo is in the national spotlight during that period. Where else do you see people with chicken wing hats on their heads! Fans come from all over the country (and Canada) for games in Orchard Park and preseason camp in Rochester. One of the best tailgate scenes in all of the NFL. Use Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as a model. Western and Central New York is all aglow if the Bills pull off a big win.
—Keith Newcomer

Need a stadium with better traffic access. It should not take two hours to leave the area of the ballpark. This applies whatever the location of the ballpark.
—Edward Zinkin

Locate it along the Thruway where the Batavia turf farms are located. Easy access from Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and Canada. (Turning Stone a prime example.) Wherever they decide, put a roof on it so it can be used for multipurpose events.
—Ed Rosen, Fairport

The Buffalo Bills franchise is worth close to a billion dollars. Let them build their own stadium. New York State is broke. It can just defer its debts, unlike the taxpayers who have to fund them.
—Dave Iadanza, Farmington

As a longtime fan and 14-year season seat holder, the reason the Bills have continued to draw solidly despite many years of bad football is the atmosphere and tailgate scene. Buffalo is annually rated one of the top three tailgating scenes in the NFL. It is my opinion that the Bills need to be playing in an open-air stadium to maximize home-field advantage. I have many friends, family and business associates that routinely come and visit and attend games with me. Many times they visit because the Bills are playing against their favorite teams. I always receive comments on how much fun it is attending a Bills game because it is like a college football scene with a unique energy level from the fans and the quality of the tailgate. Having neighborhoods nearby to park in makes the pre- and post-game incredibly different from the "Disney-like" parking at the newer stadiums. I have been to several of the modern stadiums around the league, and Ralph Wilson Stadium is a special place. It is, however, in need a dire facelift. If the bones of the stadium truly are solid, I would be in favor of doing a retrofit like Kansas City or Green Bay (old-school and loyal football towns like Buffalo). Although my seats are in the Jim Kelly Club, I have sat in just about every section of the Ralph dating back 30 years. The lower bowl is still phenomenal! It is my opinion that retrofitting the Ralph would also save hundreds of millions of dollars for a new owner—a significant advantage for any new owner which would enable them to be more profitable quicker vs. building a brand-new stadium elsewhere for $1 billion. Let's be honest, huge PSLs are not going to fly in some bland domed stadium in Niagara Falls or downtown Buffalo. With all that being said, if the Ralph is deemed not structurally sound, I would prefer seeing an open-air or retractable roof stadium in a rejuvenated downtown Buffalo (it is happening right now before our eyes folks) vs. a very seedy downtown Niagara Falls, N.Y. Either way, new owners will have to realize they will lose two of the Bills’ best assets by relocating—longtime traditions and one-of-a-kind tailgating! Any way you slice it, as long as the Bills play in Western New York it will be a win-win for generations of Bills fans to come. Go Bills!
—Scott DeRosa, Victor

Be smart! Location? Closest proximity to the most number of people who could afford and have interest in attending Bills games. Funding? Paid by those who obtain direct benefit from it—the for-profit Bills and the fans who attend.
—Doug Kennedy, Avon

If the Bills want a new stadium, it should be privately funded. New York State and local governments should not contribute a penny. Our tax dollars are squandered enough as it is.
—Rick Corey, OpticsProfessionals

Normally I am against public financing or government involvement in what should be private enterprise. As New York State has evolved into an overly governed state where nothing seems to move without the involvement of state government influenced by special interests at all levels, pragmatism suggests public funding is the solution. My sincere hope is a new stadium will be located centrally between Rochester and Buffalo. This location will drive out-of-state and Canadian fans through the Buffalo area, permitting the discovery of what the state has to offer. Additionally, this should be an indoor or domed facility allowing comfortable year-round use. The infrastructure is in place in the form of expressways, rail and overnight accommodations to support a facility in the Batavia area. Let us hope we do not miss this opportunity to enhance an entertainment asset for the region.
—Bob Scott

I do not understand why the taxpayers have to pay for a new football stadium. After we pay for it, then we should, in part, own it—correct? Then why should we have to pay to attend the games? I do not see the PGA requesting/requiring taxpayers to build/renovate golf courses. I understand it is for the “good” of the community, but let’s get real on this. If the NFL says the Bills need a new stadium, then let the NFL design and build it.
—Gary M. Baker, Cochran, Cochran & Yale

It is time to get real on this issue. If you or I were to get into business, we’d be expected to sink or swim on our own, not be subsidized. Same with professional sports. If the owners want to build a new facility in another location, that is their decision, not mine. And if I were the owner, I’d rehabilitate what we have now.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Keep the Bills in Western New York, regardless of the challenge.
—Arn Lager, C&S Cos.

I favor new Bills for the old stadium.
—Ian Cunningham

This is a First World problem. Rome is burning, but all we can worry about is a football stadium.
—Eve Elzenga

An NFL franchise is a rare commodity and one many cities covet to have. The franchise brings economic benefits and pride that few other businesses could muster. Losing one would be a blow to the city and a detriment to choosing the area as a place to live. A very sad day if the Bills were to leave.
—Rich Mileo

I think all options should be studied. I like the idea of a sports park in downtown Buffalo as long as traffic issues are resolved. I also think a renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium could work. However, I think that the study should be completed and a decision should be agreed upon before more money is spent on renovating the existing stadium.
—K. Simon

If they build a new stadium, the seating capacity needs to be smaller than the existing stadium. There have been too many blackouts because we can’t sell out a stadium that is larger than the majority of other NFL stadiums and with a smaller population to fill it.
—Joanne Greene-Blose

What happened to the $130 million upgrade in 2012?
—Steve Lipson

Public funds should not be used to support private ventures. If the Bills are worth having, private money will fill a void. If not: Goodbye.
—Samuel E. Jones

I could care less; I have other things to do that are more important.
—Rich Calabrese Jr., Rochester

Someone has to ask: Two years ago, a lease was signed with a team that had an owner who was 85+ years old, which committed taxpayers to put up $95 million and no one thought to ask if the location of the stadium was what a new owner may want, if the location of the stadium was any good, if the team would be guaranteed to be in the stadium for many years to come, or if maybe the whole project might be delayed until the long term commitment of the Bills to Western New York was guaranteed by the team or league? Someone has to ask this too: if the team moves out of town or moves to a new stadium in Buffalo or somewhere else in Western New York who is going to pay for The Ralph and its upkeep?
—Jay Birnbaum

A stadium downtown would be a boon for Buffalo and attraction for any new owner, as well as any other businesses. Folks from Rochester will still travel to Buffalo city proper. Batavia is a nonstarter and Niagara Falls is not Buffalo. Orchard Park has been a nice home, but it time to get with the 21st century and downtown stadiums is where it is at—i.e., Baltimore.
—Peter Short, Pittsford

It's easy to say build a new stadium and spend more taxpayer money, but is a new stadium really needed at this point and time. Someday a new stadium will be needed is this the right time or can the current stadium still have some very good years left. I hope as they currently spend millions on this study that it isn't just about everything new and maybe about common sense and all the choices are on the table.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images Photography

I believe Rochester is the premier city in Western New York; Rochester workforce has passed Buffalo.
—Stanley Hilt

If a new stadium is to be built, it should be paid for by the owner(s). I believe this should be the case for any franchise whether NFL, NBA, NHL or any other. If the NFL mandates new stadiums for its franchises, then the NFL should pick up part of the "tab," NOT the taxpayer. As it is, the taxpayers pay for the stadium and then if a game is not sold out, can't even watch the game on TV. Also these same taxpayers are deprived of "home" games—some games being played in Toronto.
—Harry Caruso, Caruso Asset Management

Since the NFL is considered a not-for-profit and thus avoids paying taxes, owners and players receive outrageous pay packages, and the average family cannot afford to attend games due to the high price of tickets, I think it is absurd to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for a new Bills Stadium.
—Karen Kall Coffey, On Kall Marketing

It is probably inevitable that the Bills will get a new stadium—at taxpayers’ expense. While game tickets remain too expensive for average taxpayer and Bills continue to post losing seasons one after another. Frankly, I think two New York teams are plenty.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

Until local and state government invests significantly in arts and education non-profits as they do in major/minor league sports (which are, laughably, considered non-profits!), the Bills and all sports organizations should not receive a penny of public money while schools and arts organizations go begging.
—Christine Corrado

While all types of vital services (like highway maintenance) are suffering from under-funding, why should the state sink a hundred million or so into a football stadium? We are always told that sports facilities are great for economic development, but there is absolutely no evidence of that. Look at our own triplex of Frontier Field, Sahlen's Stadium and the War Memorial. These are drive-to destinations only. People drive to them for an event, and when the event is over they get back in their cars and leave. There is zero economic development in the surrounding area. Anybody remember how Frontier Field was going to generate all kinds of business for the High Falls Entertainment District, which has totally folded?
—Paul Haney

5/23/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


What You're Saying 

martin fallon at 1:48:33 AM on 5/24/2014
If you travel to any city in this country you can find groups of Bills fans gathering on Sunday afternoons in the fall to watch our hometown team play football. There is a sense of pride being from Buffalo that is directly associated with having an NFL franchise. I've spent ...  Read More >
lori moose at 6:04:59 AM on 5/24/2014
We in Western New York are blessed to have the Buffalo Bills NFL team to call our own! They add to our culture,our pride, joy and community; to lose them would be a HUGE blow to this area in many ways. We need to all stick together (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and areas in...  Read More >

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