There has been talk for years of building a football stadium downtown for the Buffalo Bills.
Today a plan will be presented to the Common Council that proposes a 72,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium, which can double as a convention center, as the centerpiece of a $1.4 billion project on outer harbor land owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
City Hall reporter Jill Terreri live blogged from the meeting:
Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex has a preliminary site plan it commissioned by HKS Sports & Entertainment, the Dallas-based architectural and engineering firm that designed Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and was designated last month to do the same for the Minnesota Vikings. The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, wants in, too, proposing the North American Museum of Sports and Culture as part of making the outer harbor a year-round destination.
Company President Nicholas J. Stracick and Vice President George F. Hasiotis acknowledged to The Buffalo News that they have yet to line up political support, or reach out to the Bills, for a project that touches two areas – the team and development of the outer harbor – that has produced its share of cynicism. They are banking on the City of Buffalo and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo allowing them an option on a 167-acre site so they can convince the National Football League that a stunning facility is ready to be built in Buffalo.
“This has to be greenlighted by the NFL before it goes anywhere, and what the NFL wants to see is something new, something that is progressive and state of the art,” Stracick said. “Then, no matter who takes the team, that team will be in Buffalo.
“It takes at least five years to build anything, and what we’re putting on the table is the best development team in the country. The fans will say, ‘Fantastic, it’s about time.’ They’ve been in that cold stadium for 40 years, and the same thing with War Memorial Stadium.”
HKS calls for incorporating the stadium into a “green and sustainable development,” a “building in the garden” in which the area north of the stadium would remain a wooded park.
“Very few sites in the country can rival this beautiful setting for Buffalo’s new muti-purpose venue,” the proposal states.
The company calls for a “detailed feasibility study” and acknowledges the necessity of an environmental-impact assessment.
Stracick and Hasiosis, who have not attempted to measure what the public wants on the outer harbor, envision surface and covered parking for 5,000, as well as a hotel and retail and dining establishments. Neither of them said that transportation to the outer harbor for tens of thousands of people would pose a problem. It would be no worse than traffic getting in and out of Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, they said.
A new stadium could also be configured into a 20,000-seat venue for concerts, sports and other events, they said, dismissing the notion that the venue would be in direct competition with First Niagara Center.
“It’s a complement, not a competitor. It capitalizes on the synergy of all the sports and cultural activities in the area,” Stracick said.
Stracick, 77, a former umpire and Buffalo City Court marshal, shared a $240 million judgment with a partner 12 years ago against the Walt Disney Co. for stealing ideas for a sports complex.
G. Rollie Adams, a former Buffalonian who is president and CEO of Strong, said a sports museum would focus on “sports, play, competition and character.” He said, “This just seems like a natural way to bring a lot of things together.”
Explore & More, a children’s museum, has been designated by Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to locate in Canalside. But Hasiotis, a former Erie County Water Authority commissioner who unsuccessfully sought to be appointed county comptroller this year, said a sports museum would be for all ages and serve a different audience.
Hasiotis said that it was premature to talk about financing a stadium but that based on other stadium projects across the country, it was reasonable to expect the State of New York to pay about $400 million, the NFL $200 million to $400 million and hundreds of millions from construction trades since 10,000 construction jobs were expected to be generated, he said.
Daryl T. Bodewes, representative of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, expressed his support.
“We’re behind the project because it means thousands of new construction jobs. People have been talking about this for a long, long time. It’s a perfect fit,” Bodewes said.
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, whose district includes Orchard Park, said he thought the proposal would aid discussion on what the future holds for the Buffalo Niagara region. “I think that it’s exciting if it can be done,” he said, “but they have a lot of steps, and a lot to prove, too.”
Kearns said he couldn’t endorse a plan without an economic plan for the businesses surrounding Ralph Wilson Stadium. At his suggestion, a recommendation would be in a final plan, along with dedicated funding for its decommission.

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