The Buffalo Bills season begins with uncertainty about the team’s future. When owner Ralph Wilson dies, it’s expected the team will be sold. Erie County hopes to negotiate a lease that will likely cost taxpayers $200 million and has a major financial penalty if a new owner were to move the team.
The worst-case scenario is a new owner pays the penalty and heads for a city where he can increase the team’s value. I think we can all agree losing the Bills would be psychologically devastating. Would the team’s departure have an impact beyond heartbreak?
It’s worth revisiting a Buffalo News article from earlier this year about the economic impact of the Bills on Western New York. It’s not really measurable – and it may not be very large:
Experts forecast Western New York wouldn’t endure much economic pain. Not even the Orchard Park or Hamburg real-estate markets would miss a few dozen millionaires. Annual alcohol sales would be affected maybe only a percentage point or two without Bills-related parties and tailgates, Try-It Distributing chairman Gene Vukelic guessed.
Some national studies, in fact, suggest the local economy would improve without the Bills, though not all analysts concur.
But everyone agrees that Western New York’s biggest struggle would be emotional. And a prolonged, defeatist funk could infiltrate the region’s business dealings.
Based on 2010 U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, the gross domestic product of the Buffalo-Niagara market was $45.15 billion. Remove the Bills from that total, and “it doesn’t leave a ripple,” said Bruce Fisher, former Erie County deputy executive and founding director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State.
Overall, Fisher doesn’t see a substantial economic benefit from the Bills. He noted the county gives the Bills about $8 million a year in subsidies that could be spent elsewhere for a greater economic return.
“You buy this kind of thing for the community for the psychological benefit,” Fisher said. “But don’t delude yourself. It’s a cost, not a benefit in economic terms. It’s an expense.”
Without the Bills, locals would spend a healthy chunk of that money on other diversions like shopping, dining or nightlife. Fisher said when dollars are spent at local businesses, the economic benefit is exponential. For example, money spent on pizza and wings at La Nova has twice as much impact on the local economy as buying dinner at Olive Garden, with its corporate office in Orlando.
“When you spend money on mercenaries, the money leaves with them,” Fisher said.
“Not one Realtor would be impacted by the Bills not being here,” said Maureen Flavin, an agent who specializes in high-end properties and has represented several Buffalo Sabres and Bills clients over the past 20 years.
“So many of them rent, and the places they rent are highly desirable. I could rent those places out in my sleep. There are way more people who want to rent than places to rent.”
While one could argue most dollars once earmarked for the Bills still would get circulated through Western New York, charitable organizations inevitably would get dented.
It costs communities money to have a professional football team. For many people, the quality of life and exposure for Buffalo is worth every dime. But if the Bills went away, there could be focus and money spent on arguably more important things like growing business and jobs. Money spent on football could be spent on local entertainment. It’s something to think about as you settle into the couch or head to the tailgating parties for another season.
Links of the Day:
– NFL players are causing a stir by supporting gay marriage.
– Rochester’s Fringe Festival looks very cool. It starts September 19.
– Two tornadoes touched down in New York City. There’s video.