I hope we can now nail the coffin lid on this nonsense.
Numerous official slap-downs this week to the latest proposal presumably brings a merciful end to the awful idea of a new Bills stadium on the waterfront. Then again, this is Buffalo – the place with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for wrongheaded, unfunded, magic-bullet projects. The power that such outer-reality notions still have to capture part of the communal imagination – after numerous big-project failures and fantasies – is to my mind both dumbfounding and discouraging.
A waterfront stadium is a bad idea on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin. For starters, a stadium and its vast expanse of requisite parking swallow up stretches of prime waterfront land for a use that is not enhanced by nor dependent upon water. Indeed, the place would sit unused for upwards of 350 days a year. Why not just seal off the waterfront with a giant wall?
Yes, I know Pittsburgh and Cleveland have waterfront football stadiums. But their mistake is not our good idea.
Still, like a vampire, the thing refuses to die. Then-state legislator Antoine Thompson floated the waterfront stadium idea five years ago. Urban planner Ann Breen of the Washington, D.C.-based Waterfront Center at the time told me the concept was “incredibly wasteful ... not a well-considered waterfront use. And what would you do with the [current] stadium, blow it up?”
Spare me the notion, included in this week’s proposal from two local businessmen, of combining the stadium with a convention center. The prime reason for bringing in conventions is to pump an infusion of dollars into nearby hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and theaters. That’s why cities put convention centers in or near downtowns – not on isolated waterfronts. Aside from anything else, a waterfront convention center would kick the legs out from under our downtown recovery. It is hard to imagine a better strategy for civic suicide.
Yes, I understand that people want to do something to lock our otherwise outward-bound Bills (at least after the next lease expires) here for decades to come. But there is no reason to believe a new stadium – even if somebody comes up with a spare $1 billion – makes any difference in the team’s ultimate travel plans.
We could build the Taj Mahal of stadiums, and it would do nothing to solve what, to Ralph Wilson or a future owner, is the essential problem: our stagnant, smaller-market economy. New stadium or old, we do not have the corporate wealth to fill the luxury seats – or to attract the advertising dollars – that pad a big-market owner’s profits.
Which is why, frankly, the Bills – who presumably would benefit the most from a new stadium – have repeatedly said they don’t want one. More luxury seating doesn’t matter when there is no one to buy it.
A new stadium would place an amenity-swallowing white elephant on the waterfront. It would waste public dollars. And it would compound the community’s ire when the Bills eventually leave. So how is this a good idea?
Sadly, the community buzz over this suggests we still have not buried our magic-bullet mentality.
Anybody for Bass Pro?