Keeping the Bills in Buffalo: The Hunt for a New Stadium

Aaron Lowinger@Aaron_LowingerContributor IOctober 23, 2012

The Buffalo Bills head into the bye with a 3-4 record that makes them appear more respectable than their rankings might otherwise suggest. The vaunted Bills defense is a steaming pile that can't tackle and their franchise quarterback is, after all, not a franchise quarterback.

So it's time for a distraction.

Enter a guy who was almost appointed to political office and a half-baked plan to build the pipe dream stadium on Buffalo's Outer Harbor. George Hasiotis and his Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex company presented plans today to the Buffalo Common Council today to place a $1.4 billion dollar complex and stadium over the heavily polluted grounds currently belonging to the public-private entity that [kinda] runs the region's buses, the NFTA (h/t The Buffalo News).

At first blush, the plan for the stadium, designed by HKS Sports and Entertainment (Lucas Oil Field, the new Cowboy Stadium) looks stunning: on the water, retractable roof, all landscaped and lit up pretty. 

At second blush, it's a foolhardy disaster. An ill-conceived attempt to build an elevator to the moon, Buffalo style. 

Why amateurish? Well because, for one, the GBSEC hasn't taken its plan to the Bills, to the NFL, to New York State, to Erie County or to the NFTA that owns the land. For two, the team is currently in negotiations with the Erie County and New York State to make $200 million worth of improvements to the team's current stadium in Orchard Park. 

But lastly, the project's biggest problem is the price tag. $1.4 billion? Where is that money supposed to come from? Buffalo isn't one of the poorest cities in America by mistake.

I don't blame GBSEC for dreaming big, and I applaud their efforts to raise this issue before some $200 million in public money is invested in the home site for a team with an official ambivalence towards the team's future. If a new stadium would cost double the cost for renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium, wouldn't it be wise to do that instead? 

Here's a list of five current NFL stadia, their construction prices at the time they were built and their projected cost today. (All information from Wikipedia)

  • Reliant Stadium, Houston. $352 million in 2000 ($455 million in 2012 dollars).
  • Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia. $512 million in 2001 ($647 million in 2012 dollars).
  • Heinz Field, Pittsburgh. $281 million in 1999 ($369 million in 2012 dollars).
  • Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland. $349 million in 1997 ($487 million in 2012 dollars).
  • Ford Field, Detroit. $430 million in 1999 ($556 million in 2012 dollars).
  • University of Phoenix Stadium. $455 million in 2003 ($525 million in 2012 dollars).

So my simple question for the all the parties involved is, why not build a new stadium for less than half of the preposterous $1.4 billion being called for by GBSEC? 

There's a lot of problems with the Outer Harbor in terms of infrastructure, contaminated soil, wildlife habitat. The link above points to renderings of the plan that include no fewer than six new bridges. It just seems way too extravagant for reeling economy that has to watch its NFL play a "home" game in a foreign country once a year to raise money.

But Bills fans deserve to dream. It's the only thing left. If a new stadium could be built, it would seem to guarantee the team's future regardless of Ralph Wilson's biological expiration date.

Therein lies the kicker. In an ideal situation, GBSEC is assuming New York State can cover $400 million, and the NFL could match that. That still would leave $600 million in support to come from a hitherto unknown, unnamed source. 


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