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Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex rendering provided to Buffalo News

A Buffalo company wants the Bills to move into a proposed $1.4 billion waterfront stadium with a retractable roof. The Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex says the facility could also double as a convention center.

What’s more, Strong National Museum of Play wants in, according to the Buffalo News:

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.


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.”

A few big problems with this plan:

1. The company hasn’t talked to the Bills.

2. The company hasn’t talked to politicians.

3. The company doesn’t own the 167-acre site – the state does.

4. There’s no business plan. But we all know what any business plan will include – a lot of your tax dollars. Study after study has shown stadiums are a money-loser for communities.

5. The last thing cities need is convention centers. They don’t make money and there’s a glut of space.

6. Is a football stadium the best use for waterfront property? A mixed use development including housing, retail and offices that comes out on the positive side for taxpayers might be better.

7. What’s the development plan for the surrounding area?

8. Would a stadium guarantee the Bills stick around? What’s the succession plan again?

The current plan is to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium for $200 million. The state is being asked to kick in some cash. Some think the stadium will become outdated quickly, even with the upgrades. There are no guarantees the Bills won’t bolt when it’s all done.

This new proposal has a lot of “wow.” Many have wanted the Bills downtown for some time. But this is about as big a lift as we’ve ever seen for any project in this state. Make no mistake – if it gets done – we’ll be carrying it for some time.

Update: I went to Buffalo today to cover the developers’ presentation before the Common Council. Here is my report. These are some additional renderings.

Also, a lot of people are asking about parking and traffic. There would be 5,000 spaces, so don’t worry, tailgating wouldn’t be harmed. But I don’t believe downtown projects should be nixed because of traffic. There will always be bottlenecks at special events, no matter where they are located. Furthermore, in downtown areas, not everyone is coming and going out of the same lots. That said, this outer harbor area seems a tad isolated because of the Skyway.



21 Responses to Strong Play for Bills?

  1. Is there some part of stupid anyone proposing this doesn’t understand?

  2. October 23, 2012 at 8:28 am Sean Lahman responds:

    Is Scott Congel involved? Because this sounds like a scheme right out of his playbook.

  3. October 23, 2012 at 8:30 am Havahd St responds:

    People always get all excited about downtown football stadiums, then they forget that everyone drives to football games! Even if there is good public transit, the tailgating is more fun than the game and it’s difficult to do that downtown. I’ve been to numerous lacrosse final fours (about 45,000 attendance) in at the Ravens Stadium in downtown Baltimore, and driving is an absolute nightmare. Keep the Bills in the ‘burbs!
    Also, isn’t a lot of work already being done on the hockey rink and surrounding area?

  4. If they had any sense they would move the stadium to the east side of buffalo or as far east as batavia. Lets face it…the further west you go, the more Browns fans there are. If they came east, they would have a much better chance to tap into the Syracuse market and it would be more accessible than the current stadium. A downtown stadium would be an ABSOLUTE nightmare to get to. place it to the east and turn it into a year round destination…just like Patriot’s Place in Foxboro, MA.

  5. Buffalo is getting smaller and a major football team is getting less possible.

  6. October 23, 2012 at 9:03 am Carlos Mercado responds:

    Until prosperity returns to New York, a billion dollar sports complex will not make it past the smoke n mirrors stage. We are most likely to see more tax money put into the facility at Orchard Park. If the State & Local people were smart, they’d put the stadium east of the city off the Thruway near Batavia to draw from Rochester.

  7. But Carlos, if we put a Bills stadium in actual DT Buffalo near the hockey stadium (not on the Outer Harbor, which even many locals can’t figure out how to get to), locals could take MetroRail (as many do to Sabres games, parking free at Park & Ride lots in North Buffalo). Canadians could either drive (a slightly shorter distance than they do now) or take chartered game-day trains to the DT passenger rail terminal (which needs an upgrade) — same for Rochester folks.

    Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle I see to building any new stadium for the Bills anywhere is we don’t have a commitment that the Bills will actually stay around. If they don’t, we’ll have an empty stadium largely built with taxpayer money. No pol will want to take the blame for that. And in this day and age, it doesn’t seem likely WNY would be able to attract a new NFL team no matter how nice the stadium.

    As much as I’d love to see the Bills DT, my county executive’s plan to renovate the existing OLD stadium in the SUBURBS is the only one that makes sense to me right now. Still, these counter-proposals will continue coming out of the woodwork, I suspect.

    And don’t be surprised to see Niagara Falls make a play for a new stadium, on the vacant NRP land behind the casino (owned by Cuomo’s Thruway Authority chair), with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission offering to kick in funds (as they did recently for a new convention center on the Canadian side).

  8. Great post, Rachel.

    A few thoughts & points of agreement:

    1. A downtown football stadium/convention center does nothing to foster a healthy streetscape, downtown density, or urban activity. The complex is not used every day, and takes up a ton of otherwise desirable space. Look at Rochester’s own monolithic convention center – it is ugly from the street, takes up a whole city block in the heart of Rochester, and stands as a major roadblock in reconnecting the urban fabric along what used to be a beautiful, pedestrian centric, Main St.

    2. The very nature of football is not conducive to an urban setting. First of all, people drive to the games and the public transit network in Western New York is non-existent – there are no other options. Secondly, the Bills have only 7 games in Orchard Park this year. The rest of the year, 1 Bills Drive, and the sea of parking surrounding it, sits idle. Again, putting this along a river on what could otherwise be a mixed-use development with a nice streetscape would leave that area a ghost town for most of the year. It’s not like a baseball team that has 82 home games a year – BIG difference in how the two sports add to an urban environment.

    3. The Bills are a regional team. Don’t make it difficult for fans from the rest of Western New York to come spend their hard earned money on their beloved Buffalo Bills.

    4. We are already taxed to death. NFL owners have a very sweet deal, and a monopoly over their product. I love their product, and especially my Bills, but I do not think it fair that the NFL is run as a non-for-profit, makes plenty of money, is able to pay their players massive salaries, yet always comes back to the populace for a handout.

  9. Yep, just what WNY needs, a stadium in the the pits of NF, where no one will go.
    Is there some part of “east of Buffalo” anyone fails to understand?

  10. All signs point to the Bill’s being moved to LA when Ralph Wilson passes. Any talk of a new stadium is ridiculous and laughable. A downtown stadium is the worst idea imaginable. Tailgating is the attraction. The game is really just a reason to tailgate. A downtown stadium would not provide the tailgate experience.

  11. Most say the Raiders are moving from Oakland to LA not the Bills.
    I agree with the burbs are best via driving/tailgate etc for the NFL. Taking up the DT waterfront space for 9 events mostly in the fall is a waste of that space. It best used in Summer .. been there its nice for outdoor events, craft shows etc.
    The State / FED govt. needs a binding agreement with the NFL that they can’t move a team without just cause done by setting pre agreed requirements ie attendance thresholds not met etc. Schumer should lead that effort. Until then no tax dimes or dollars to the NFL anywhere in the US.

  12. October 23, 2012 at 11:40 am Havahd St responds:

    Chargers and Jaguars would be most likely to move, Chargers have an old stadium that isn’t getting updated and the Jags have no fans. Leave the stadium where it is and improve it, the tailgating is the best part.
    I’m never quite sure what needs to be improved with all of these NFL stadiums. The Bills Stadium is pretty much what I expect at an NFL game. I’ve been to the Patriots and Ravens Stadiums and don’t see that much of a difference. They’re all overpriced with hard seats, and NO SH*T they’re crowded theres 70,000 people at the game.

  13. Awesome! Maybe Rochester could get a ferry to go there!

    (Bills ARE moving. Jags = Southern team, Super Bowl site. Chargers are fine. Oakland fans are rabid, why would THEY move?)

    • look it up. Raiders do have strong fans just not enough of them. They are the only FB team left playing in a baseball stadium. Oakland and Calf have no money the state is bankrupt. LA has a stadium and is building a new one, just need a team.

  14. October 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    1.4 billion for a stadium, sounds like the taxpayer is going to get trimmed good on this one.

  15. October 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm Mittens responds:

    That IS kind of insane. If this really does happen, all I can say is good luck!

    But why does the Strong Museum of ROCHESTER want in on a project going on in BUFFALO?? Makes no sense to me. That’s the equivalent of the University of Toronto opening a satellite campus in Downtown Rochester…

  16. October 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm Animule responds:

    I’ve been to most of the convention centers mentioned in the CC article, and have been around long enough to have seen the attendance declines first hand. The role of “reverse” speed-dating like trade shows has rendered some of the show model obsolete and we’re not even talking about the impact of Skype and technologies like that. Of the centers discussed, the most egregious of all was Washington building a new convention center (literally) about three blocks away from the old one that was fairly new itself, and PERFECTLY FINE. Boston is another city with a very new convention center that is not pulling its weight. Both cities are dogged by sky high hotel costs, cab costs, and more that scare attendees away.

    Building a new stadium/convention center for the Bills is insane. Buffalo won’t come remotely close to attracting any major conventions. Those go to Vegas, Anaheim, New Orleans and more. Even Chicago can’t keep up with these cities (it takes about 3-5 unions in Chicago to even open a 10 x 10 booth on the show floor – not making this up). Buffalo has no chance of cutting it in this field, and cannot compete on the football field either.

    It’s time to fish or cut bait with the Bills. They stink, and the more time that passes, the more it looks like the Super Bowl years were some sort of accident. The owner has one foot in the grave, has made one colossal blunder after another (firing Bill Polian, for one) and the team will never be more than barely competitive without a new owner. I have watched this team since the early 1970s and it is time to let them go. They have become a drain on the economy, and a colossal waste of time. I am convinced that the local economy would do better without them. The psychic cost of losing them would be high, but we would survive in the long run.

  17. October 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm Ginny Maier responds:

    Oh my goodness, Rachel, your story on the 13WHAM website is sad/hilarious. Everyone should read what the developer has to say. I can’t decide if my favorite bit is where he tells the council “we’re done” except for not owning the land, not having money from the state, not having sponsors and not having an agreement with the Bills, OR where he responds to your point that $400 million of taxpayers dollars would be at stake with “So, what?”

  18. As a diehard BILLS fan I have been following this situation very closely. I feel that downtown is a pipedream mainly in the fact that you then have to figure out what to do with the current stadium and all of that land. You can’t just build stuff and hope people move or come in (Medley Center).

    I love the idea of a retractable roof stadium but 72,000 is too big for the area. I would go down to 63,000 because it better suits the market size. The roof is great because it does allow for events to be there year round if they can get any. I would build the stadium next to the Ralph in Orchard Park since you already have the parking and infrastructure there. The key is getting other events there such as a College Bowl Game, conventions believe it or not WrestleMania and concerts that First Niagara Center can’t hold due to hockey dates and that Darien Lake cannot do due to bad weather. It must be a year long facility in order for it to be useful.

  19. October 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    the taxpayer should never pay for sports teams.

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