By George Hasiotis
The world’s premier sports and entertainment design firm, HKS Inc. of Dallas – which developed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis – has identified Buffalo’s waterfront as one of the best locations anywhere for integrating sports, parkland, cultural attractions and water recreation.
Our team has presented the Buffalo Common Council with a bold plan to build a cutting edge, year-round stadium-and-museum complex on Buffalo’s outer harbor. The multipurpose stadium will also accommodate myriad other sporting events. The North American Museum of Sports and Culture will channel a steady stream of visitors to downtown Buffalo 362 days yearly. (The Strong, which will operate the museum, currently attracts 600,000 people annually to downtown Rochester – more than the Bills draw.) These days, the NFL demands charisma of all its franchises. So we are asking the city and the state to help us secure this site.
Some commentators whine that Buffalo is a declining mid-sized market that will eventually be unable to support an NFL team. That’s a myth. This proud city sits at the pivot point of a 22 million-strong mega-region – the fifth-largest in North America. The economic might of the Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester region surpasses the continent of Australia. We Buffalonians have only to tap it.
More than a century ago, Buffalo’s business and political leaders pulled together to build the Pan-American Exposition. Like the Pan-Am, this project properly has begun with private-sector leadership. Professional football will survive here, though, only through a private and public partnership – no more than 30 percent public. Meeting a five- to six-year construction timetable makes it imperative that elected officials and appointed authorities quickly rediscover our earlier collaborative spirit and join in to make land available and plan infrastructure improvements.
Whether you support keeping NFL football here or not, visualize the power this economic engine will generate. Building a 72,000-seat stadium and a 150,000-square-foot museum along with hotels, restaurants and infrastructure upgrades will create 10,000 good-paying construction jobs. These workers will pay taxes, buy houses and send their children to local colleges. Visitors will shop and dine. Up front, this project will attract Canadian investment. Once developed, this urban waterfront will tap millions of travelers. Once up and running, this project will create 4,000 additional, permanent jobs.
Please do not listen to the naysayers, delayers and defeatists who dismiss this project without knowing the details. It’s time to hold your reluctant representatives’ timid feet to the heat, too. For the economic survival of this region, we must come together – now. If we do, Buffalo will rise again.
George Hasiotis is vice president of Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex LLC.