By Rocco Termini
Much is being said about the difficulty of financing the $200 million in improvements to Ralph Wilson Stadium. It is not just the financing, but how you keep the team here once you solve the financing problem.
There is a simple solution that will cost the taxpayers and the Buffalo Bills nothing.
The Bills organization pays approximately $13 million per year in New York State payroll taxes. We can all agree if the team were not in New York State, we would not be getting that yearly $13 million in income. We should create payroll tax incremental financing. Every year the Bills organization will pay its payroll tax into a special lock box created by the state. This money will be used to pay the bonds that were used to borrow the money for the improvements. Over the 15-year term of the lease, $13 million a year in payments at 4 percent can amortize $150 million in improvements.
The Bills are currently one of the only clubs in the NFL that have not sold the naming rights to their stadium. I believe the Bills can sell the naming rights for a minimum of $4 million per year over the 15-year lease period. This revenue stream would allow the state to borrow $45 million at 4 percent over 15 years.
The two revenue streams would amortize a loan of $195 million.
This leaves us with an additional $5 million needed for improvements and $5 million for legal costs. This money could come from Delaware North by renegotiating and extending the company's current contract to provide food service for the stadium.
The next problem is keeping the Bills here once we make the improvements to the stadium. I believe the penalty for moving should be onerous. If the Bills decided that they wanted to leave, the penalty would be twice the investment in the improvements.
A $400 million penalty, I believe, would be enough to prevent the team from leaving. If the Bills are truly interested in staying in Buffalo, they should not object to the penalty. After all, as stated by the Bills, they have no intention of moving, so why would they care about the size of the penalty?
If a wealthy group did appear on the horizon and agree to pay the penalty, then the net proceeds should be put in a fund for Buffalo economic development.
This simple solution would give us the touchdown we are all waiting for, instead of fumbling along spending months trying to solve the problem.
Rocco Termini is president of Signature Development in Buffalo.