More stadium madness in Buffalo

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

The cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls continued to lose population between 2010 and 2013, according to the latest U.S. Census estimates, and the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area created jobs at less than half the national rate in the past year, Labor Department data show.


But never fear: state and local pols are riding to Western New York’s rescue with a sure-thing ”catalyst of economic growth.”

It’s … a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

Yes, those Bills — the same highly profitable professional football franchise now cashing in on a $95 million taxpayer contribution to the rehab of its current digs, Ralph Wilson Stadium. The lead on this Buffalo News story sums up the situation well:

Even as $130 million in renovations continue this summer at Ralph Wilson Stadium, just about everyone studying the future of the Buffalo Bills acknowledges that come some September Sunday about a decade from now, the team will kick off another season in a new home.

The price tag: up to $1 billion or so, the News reports.

Meanwhile, those ongoing renovations to the Bills’ current home are being subsidized with borrowed money. So, even if a new stadium is constructed and occupied within the decade, New Yorkers could be paying off the Ralph Wilson Stadium rehab bonds for years after the current stadium is (possibly) gone –much as New Jersey taxpayers are still paying off the repeatedly financed debt issued to construct the now-demolished Giants Stadium in the mid-1970s.

Public subsidies for sports arenas cannot be justified on economic development grounds. But that hasn’t stopped pols in both parties, in cities and states across the country, from continuing to chase this moonbeam.

Talk of a new Bills stadium has been stoked by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who (in addition to subsidizing the Bills’ current stadium rehab out of the state budget) has formed a working group to study the idea and hired a consultant to come up with location options. Earlier this year, Cuomo also reportedly encouraged Onondaga County officials to believe they could get state funding for a since-abandoned proposal to build a new downtown Syracuse arena to replace the Carrier Dome.



- E.J. McMahon is the Research Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.