Look and listen hard enough and you can hear a different rumor every day about the Bills’ ownership situation and their stadium dilemma.
This is all about saving the franchise. Frankly, the more you hear, the better you feel.
There are too many financial and political agendas going on that point to the Bills staying in Western New York, and few tangible signs they’re going anywhere else at this point.
Yes, these stories can change in a heartbeat, but I don’t think anyone thought the feeling around town would be this confident just a few weeks after the death of Ralph Wilson.
The focus has been strong from all sides and that’s where it should be. A new stadium preserves the team and serves the community. That’s the reason.
Trying to get a Super Bowl is not a good reason. It’s not happening. Those who say it can happen here are selling a bill of goods nobody should buy.
You build a new stadium to save the Bills. Maybe you pair it with a new convention facility. You’ll draw concerts. Maybe that NCAA basketball regional final will come here.
But enough talk about The Big Game. We are not Indianapolis or Minneapolis and that’s OK. And people who say those two or Atlanta are proof that a new stadium gets you a Super Bowl and we should be in line too are just not thinking clearly.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune made quite the waves Sunday with its report on the 153-page NFL wish list for host cities. Some of it was things you expect, like having plenty of hotel rooms and a stadium with 70,000 seats the requisite number of suites and club seats.
Some of the items once again showed the kind of avarice and arrogance the NFL is famous for.
“Top-quality” golf course and bowling lanes. Portable cell towers at team hotels. Loads of free advertising in local media outlets. And, of course, full exemption from all state and local taxes.
(In cold weather cities, the golfing would be done the previous summer on site tours).
The new Atlanta stadium, which the Falcons and the Georgia city hope will host the Super Bowl in 2019, will have a price tag of $1.2 billion. The Vikings’ stadium that will be hosting Super Bowl LII in 2018 will be pushing $1 billion.
We do not need a $1 billion stadium in Buffalo, and if that’s what it takes to host a Super Bowl, so be it.
Frankly, I’m struck by all the talk from people who think Ralph Wilson Stadium is sufficient. It’s got great sightlines, sure. And this current $130 million renovation will be a big help in extending its life.
But these are very expensive Band-Aids, and the Ralph is going to be replaced. Just not at the cost of $1 billion.
Phoenix, the new stadium outside San Francisco and Houston are hosting the next three Super Bowls. Then comes Minneapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, built in 2008 for $720 million, hosted the Giants’ win over the Patriots in 2012.
Build it and the NFL will come? Hardly.
We do not have the infrastructure of those cities. I’m struck by talking to people here who think we’re in that kind of neighborhood. We’re not.
The downtown buildings all through Minneapolis are connected by an elaborate labyrinth of skywalks. Think how nice that would be here in, say, February.
Indianapolis’ massive convention setup and hotel network has essentially made it the every-five-years home of the Final Four and has lured events like baseball’s Winter Meetings.
You have to understand how far behind Buffalo has fallen in the hospitality industry, too. There are pretty much no luxury properties here.
Between covering baseball and hockey, I’ve been to pretty much every large city you can think of. Until last month, Buffalo was about the only one I can think of that didn’t have a single Marriott hotel property in its downtown.
By next year at this time, the new Courtyard on Washington Street and the Marriott at HarborCenter will give us two. Other hotels are online or coming. Things are moving forward here. HarborCenter is a testament to how things can get done and not get mired for years in Bass Pro-like muck.
Let’s keep moving forward on a new stadium. Figure out where to put it, be it downtown, Niagara Falls, Orchard Park, West Seneca or wherever.
(An aside here: The Outer Harbor? Traffic nightmare. Proponents say the situation is manageable, but I’m hugely skeptical. Things are fine in September but what happens at the first December home game played as the snow swirls and the wind howls off the lake?)
Wherever you go, you will have to address traffic and transit. You’re planning for an NFL season, not an influx of out-of-towners this town won’t be able to handle during a February week.
Save the Bills. That’s what we want and what our kids want. That’s Super enough.