New York governor claims other cities had interest in Bills’ relocation
Not everyone was on board with the use of $600 million in public money from the state of New York for a new stadium in Buffalo. The payment is included in the state’s $220 billion budget for 2022-23. Erie County will commit $250 million toward the project, with the NFL and the Bills committing $550 million in financing.
Critics have pointed out that Forbes estimates owners Terry and Kim Pegula’s net worth at nearly $6 billion.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, defended the use of public funds for the $1.4 billion open-air stadium in Orchard Park.
“In this stadium, we see very strong support from the local delegation in Albany,” Hochul told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, via Dan Lyons of SI.com. “They’re very vocal in their desire to have a share of support go toward a team that is part of the identity of Western New York. It’s like Broadway is to New York City, this team is to Western New York.
“They did have options to leave. That’s hanging over New Yorkers, Western New Yorkers in particular. So the decision was made to get the best deal we could for taxpayers.”
Hochul said San Diego and other cities contacted the Pegulas about relocating if they couldn’t finalize a stadium deal in Buffalo.
“I was aware that they were being reached out to by other cities that have lost teams before,” Hochul said. “That is real. Their stadium was starting to crumble. Something had to happen and if there wasn’t a decision done soon, they had definitely other options. My entire life, there was talk of them going to Toronto. In fact, a significant performer actually was coming forward with a plan to take them to Toronto. Buffalo’s a very small market. It’s quite extraordinary that they have a team at all, because there’s a lot more money to be had in larger cities like San Diego and others who would love to have a team.
“I was not going to give away the shop. The first question was, ‘Can we finance it 100 percent with public dollars?’ I said, ’No. No way. We’re not doing that.’ So it ended up being 43 percent of the total cost is state money, but when you factor in the income tax we’re going to drive from the ball players -- these are very highly paid athletes -- we have that paid off just in new income for the state in 22 years.”
The Chargers left San Diego because they couldn’t get a stadium deal there, and while Toronto long has been used as leverage for teams wanting public money for a new stadium, it is questionable whether it could support an NFL team.
While relocation was unlikely, decision-makers believed they had to give the Bills what they wanted to guarantee the team stayed. The Bills are scheduled to open their new stadium in 2026 and now have a 30-year lease to remain in Buffalo.