WASHINGTON – Billionaire developer Donald Trump said Monday that he’s willing to put up some of his own money to help build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills if his bid to buy the team is successful.
Asked about contributing money to a new Bills stadium during a brief interview before a speech at the National Press Club, Trump said, “I think I would. If my bid were accepted, I would certainly do what I could do.”
The new Bills stadium is likely to involve public financing as well, Trump said in the interview, in which he reiterated the team’s need for a new facility and said his employees had already scouted out a couple of good stadium sites in Buffalo.
Trump’s name is one of several that has surfaced in connection with purchasing the Bills franchise, which is for sale after the recent death of its founder and owner, Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
Both in the interview and in a question-and-answer session following his Press Club speech, Trump restated his interest in buying the Bills and stressed that he would keep the team in Buffalo.
“I’ve always liked the Bills,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve always thought that Jim Kelly is one of the great, great players in the history of the NFL. You’ve had some fabulous teams, just really a great group of teams and a great group of people. And the Bills should stay in Buffalo.”
Trump said he plans to make a serious bid to accomplish just that.
“We are going to put in a bid,” he said during his Press Club appearance. “I buy a lot of things, but I buy them if the price is a reasonable or a fair price. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Buffalo. If the price isn’t the right price, then I won’t get it, and I won’t be ashamed of not getting it. I’m not going to be forced to pay too much.”
In the interview, though, Trump spoke with a level of detail that seemed to reflect the level of interest he has in the team.
“They’ll need a new stadium,” he said of the Bills. “Initially we would fix up the (current) stadium, but the ultimate plan would be for a new stadium.”
Trump said his employees have already scouted out potential sites for a new stadium, though he declined to name them.
“There are a couple of sites in Buffalo that would be very good,” he said during the interview. “We’ve looked at two of them, and we’re thinking about two of them, but we’ll see what happens.”
At the same time, Trump dismissed the idea of building the Bills’ new home near Ralph Wilson Stadium, the facility in Orchard Park that has been the Bills’ home since 1973.
County officials have urged that consideration be given to building the new stadium at or near the old stadium site, but Trump indicated that such a plan could be disruptive.
“You’d want a site that wouldn’t interfere with the old stadium because you’d want the transition to be seamless,” he said.
A New Stadium Working Group will be sorting through potential sites for the stadium.
If Trump is the winning bidder, he said he would be willing to contribute to the financing of the facility, although he also stressed that public financing would likely be part of the package as well.
“I think in terms of Buffalo, you would be able to get public financing,” he said. “That would be one of the advantages.”
Several recently built stadiums have been financed with a combination of private and public funds. For example, Arlington, Texas, raised taxes to pay its $325 million share of the Dallas Cowboys’ new $1.15 billion home. And the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium is set to cost $975 million, with $477 million coming from private financing.
Trump also said he’d be willing to sign a long-term lease on a new Bills stadium that included severe financial penalties for relocating the team, which is just what state and county officials insisted on in the current Bills lease at Ralph Wilson stadium.
“Once you start doing the stadium, you’re there for a long time,” Trump said.
After a speech in which Trump described “building the Trump brand” and bemoaned the state of the country and its position in the world, Trump fielded several questions about business and politics.
His name has been floated several times as a possible presidential candidate, and he may just run in 2016, Trump said.
“If I don’t see the right person in 2016, I will do it as sure as you’re sitting here,” he said.
Trump also defended his questioning of President Obama’s citizenship, while conceding that it now seems there was “a very good chance” that Obama was born in the United States.
“Why would I regret it?” he said of his sympathy for the “birther movement” that surfaced before Obama released a detailed birth certificate in April 2011.
The question-and-answer session also featured questions about his interest in the Bills, and in his responses, Trump said he didn’t know how many bidders there might be for the team.
“There will probably be at least a few,” he said.
Trump also said his ownership of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals in the early 1980s should not be an impediment to him owning an NFL team now. In fact, “I think the opposite,” Trump said.
Only six or seven NFL team owners remain from that era, when Trump bought the Generals as the USFL was failing, Trump said. Those owners who remain know that Trump has shown he can run a sports franchise, he said.
“I actually think they respect what I did, and I think they respect it a lot,” Trump said. “So I don’t see that as a problem.”
As for the Trump Organization’s past involvement with casinos, Trump noted that he has sold his Atlantic City interests – and would not enter any new gambling ventures if he were an NFL team owner.
And if he does field the winning bid for the Bills, “I’d probably do a good job,” Trump said. “I think the people of Buffalo, they already like me – I have a great relationship with the people of Buffalo.”