Buffalo Stance, Part II
By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor
NEW YORK CITY (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) The Black Athlete Sports Network first filed a story months ago regarding The City of Buffalo and the efforts of a group of private investors to spend a billion dollars into transforming a tract of land which encompasses its underdeveloped Outer Harbor area into an entertainment complex – complete with a retractable domed stadium, a 1000 – room hotel and other accoutrements which would draw high – end sporting events, conventions and the like…
All of this would be situated in Downtown Buffalo and fit the script of a similar model utilized by the City of Indianapolis, which helped the location rake in over $650 million when they hosted the Super Bowl two years ago; but a funny thing happened on the way to the deal – opposition.
The ruling money and influence; embodied by Buffalo Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson, has attempted to shift the dialogue in facilitating new investment via cash not endorsed by either himself or those working in his better interests.
With the completion of a billion – dollar payday in the New York metropolitan area after Super Bowl XLVIII, Western New York has seen the future – and it could be bright with this project. With no tax monies asked for by the local citizenry, the deal would seem to be a no – brainer.
Wilson and his charges, however, wish to use taxpayer money to refurbish their aging stadium in Orchard Park, New York, a “boondocks” like location which fit the model for National Football League teams 40 years ago, but not now.
After several struggles over releasing the land, and groups vying for control of it, the political tong war beneath surfaced over whether the Bills would stay in Buffalo, or have a license to split. So a dialogue was then spun by Eric County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz – with the intent to focus on getting tax money to refurbish Ralph C. Wilson Stadium and dissuade any attempt to promote the concept of a Downtown – area stadium; an idea first presented to the public by WUFO 1080 “The Mix” AM Sports Director Patrick Freeman.
Know by his on – air persona “The Mighty O’Ba,” Freeman pointed out the advantages of utilizing the downtown area, including having the Mayor of Indianapolis on his show to break down how they did in SB XLVII and how their multi – use facility will pay for itself down the road with other events as a magnet area for entertainment revenue.
As more citizens picked on up Freeman’s notion of how the private funding (endorsed by HKS, the foremost company in building sports stadia) would be a boon to the area in providing as much as 15,000 permanent jobs, skull – dragging by local politicians (including Poloncarz) endeavored to pull the discourse in another direction; these efforts culminated with a recent editorial in the Buffalo News which discouraged building a downtown stadium by implying such a move would mean more taxes – and no mention of the billion bucks in private funding that is good to go…
Freeman’s consistent voice was the prime factor which likely spurred Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to consider a new stadium after the Buffalo Bills signed a new short – term lease, opening dialogue to a Working Group consisting of 21 appointees; seven selected from the Buffalo Bills, seven by the Erie County Executive Board (headed by Poloncarz and named this past Thursday – which did not include Mr. Freeman) and seven appointees from New York State via the Governor’s Office – five of which have been already selected by Cuomo.
BASN has just received documents which reveal why Poloncarz would not want Mr. Freeman among the Working Group; a letter to Mr. Freeman, written and signed by Poloncarz, revealing his intentions re any future plans for a stadium in Buffalo (the PDF copy of the letter is included in the body of this column):
While one may not be able to “read the fine print” here is the text of the letter – dated July 30, 2012:
Dear Mr. Freeman:
Thank you for contacting me to express your views Erie County’s (the “County”) lease negotiations with the Buffalo Bills (the “Bills”) for Ralph C. Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park. As you know, the current lease agreement was negotiated by the County, New York State (the “State”) and the Bills in 1998 and set to expire on July 30, 2013.
Keeping the Bills here in Buffalo is not only important for our economy but also critical to the framework of our community. That is why as one of my first acts as County Executive I initiated a process to retain the services of special counsel so that when the Bills completed their architectural survey and when they were ready to begin negotiations, the County would be ready as well.
We have retained the law firm of Nixon Peabody LLP, which has extensive experience in negotiating professional sports team’s lease agreements, including being actively involved in ten prior NFL Stadium transactions. Even prior to retention of this firm, I personally attended multiple negotiating sessions with the Bills on preliminary matters, and all parties are actively involved now in an effort to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
Over the past several weeks, there has been a lot of speculation in the media surrounding these negotiations, and while it is too early to answer many of the questions that have been posed, I can say that those negotiations involve the renovation of Ralph C. Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park and not the construction of at a location within the city of Buffalo.
While the idea of a downtown stadium enlivens the imagination, the reality is that the Bills have no interest in the construction of a new stadium, no suitable site with the necessary infrastructure and roadway access is available, nor does the County have the financial resources for what would be at least 1 billion, and likely nearing 1.5 billion endeavor when all costs of construction, infrastructure, and debt service are included.
To give you an idea of how large a number this really is, as of March 31, 2012, the County’s current outstanding long – term general obligation indebtedness for all its prior capital projects (all roads, bridges, parks, ECMC, ECC, library, Ralph Wilson Stadium, First Niagara Center, etc.) is approximately $632 million ($487 million in principal and $144 million in interest), Assuming the County just doubled that amount, the county could not pay off the annual debt service unless it significantly raised its property and sales tax and cut other worthy services, a result no one would find acceptable. A $1 billion-plus addition would literally “break the County’s back.”
In understanding the economic realities that face the region, I can assure you that my administrative team will work closely with the State and representatives of the Bills to renegotiate a lease agreement for the current stadium that not only ensures the Bills will remain here for years to come but also strikes a fair deal for State and County taxpayers.
Thank you again for contacting me. I encourage you to visit http://www.erie.gov/exec to stay up to date on the work I am doing on your behalf. Additionally, if you would like to express your opinion on another issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 716 858 – 8500 or email me at email@example.com.
Mark C. Poloncarz, Esq.
Erie County Executive
So if we ask the basic questions (who what when where why – and sometimes how) given the text:
WHO is the real interest protected here besides Ralph Wilson; a banking real estate or other financial concern that may be doing business on behalf of Gangsta Ralph?
WHAT kind of objectivity can Poloncarz have if he’s made it clear he and his interests don’t want a stadium in Buffalo proper – yet he’s going to control one – third of voting interests which, through his own words states there will be no stadium anywhere besides Orchard Park while on his watch?
WHEN is the time to act going to matter? The process is eating up time – and with a 96 – year – old owner, time is something not on the side of Buffalo fans/taxpayers – who may not realize ‘negotiation’ may be another word for ‘extortion.’
WHERE will the billion dollars in private, repeat private funding go – if they collectively decide this process is a cluster fuck and they determine based on the Working Group’s actions they see no signs of intelligent life among these individuals?
WHY are Buffalo citizens not being told that their stadium is sinking and being literally held up with beams?
HOW the hell are you going to leave off the one person (Patrick Freeman) who initiated this effort with no other agenda other than seeking to gain employment for as many as 15,000 of his neighbors and genuinely represents a working man’s interest in the city he lives in and loves?
Always outnumbered, never outgunned.
Copyright © Michael – Louis Ingram 2014 All Rights Reserved.