Most people in Western New York, we suspect, endorse the idea that it is critical to retain the Buffalo Bills franchise here. Even those who don’t call themselves football fans should understand that the NFL team contributes mightily to Buffalo’s identity and its quality of life.
For that reason, we were heartened by the effort of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who has suggested that the league tweak the terms of a loan program that helps teams build and renovate stadiums.
It is uncertain that the Bills would want to make use of that program, but it is a safer bet than relying, as in the past, exclusively on contributions from New York State, which remains economically stressed.
Also uncertain is where Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz stands on that question and what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is thinking beyond his comments on the importance of keeping the Bills here, while noting there is no “blank check.”
All three of these men have important roles to play in the balancing act of ensuring that the Bills remain here for the long term – a goal that will require major improvements to Ralph Wilson Stadium – while also protecting the bank accounts of taxpayers. What would be most potent, though, is for three of them and other elected officials – the stadium is in Rep. Brian Higgins’ district – to work together on this project, bringing together resources and clout in a way that will lead to success. Like keeping a football team in the town where it was born.
Cuomo has been eloquent in discussing the importance of keeping the Bills in Buffalo. “The spirit of the community is a very important factor here,” he said during a visit to Buffalo in January.
“Losing the Bills would not be helpful to that, and that is a major economic factor. Now, it’s an intangible one, but it is a major one. Does Buffalo need a deep psychological blow at this time? No. I’m trying to do the exact opposite.” He called himself a “committed partner in keeping the Bills here,” and while noting the state’s ongoing financial difficulties, said: “We’ll do whatever we can, and I’m optimistic that it will work out.”
The Bills’ lease expires in 2013, which arrives in just over four months. The Bills have been a fixture in Buffalo since the team was founded in 1959. It is hard to imagine this region without the Bills, but issues such as the stadium upgrade, the team’s lease and the age of its 93-year-old owner, Ralph C. Wilson Jr., all play roles in the team’s future.
That’s a complicated string of issues, and anyone with influence has a role to play in navigating them. We are grateful for the efforts of Schumer, Cuomo, Poloncarz and everyone else on board with this mission, but we hope that they will coordinate their efforts to render the needed outcome for Buffalo, its taxpayers and the team that people seem to love.