Jun 18, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Kraig Urbik (60) performs a drill against center Macky MacPherson (76) during the Bills Minicamp at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

County Exec not convinced Buffalo Bills need new stadium

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Once the Buffalo Bills have a new owner — a process that could be ratified as soon as October — that ownership group will then be tasked with finding a new stadium for the team. At least, that’s been the general consensus to this point. It’s what the NFL wants because new stadiums increase league value. It’s what a new owner wants because new stadiums increase franchise value.

But is it what the local municipality wants? More importantly, is a new stadium in the best interest of Western New York, the citizens of which so desperately want to see the Bills stay in Buffalo? County executive Mark Poloncarz believes the answer isn’t so simple, but for now it appears to be a no from his viewpoint.

“They have to prove to me that the Bills can’t be viable in Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Poloncarz told The Buffalo News. “If we’re going to have to build a new stadium, I want to see something that really proves we need a new stadium.”

Paying for an NFL stadium is a big business that calls for oodles of tax dollars. Poloncarz isn’t crazy about the idea of halting the flow of those tax dollars toward the public good in favor of a glitzy stadium in blue collar Western New York.

“I’m not going to cut libraries, I’m not going to cut parks, I’m not going to cut Child Protective Services to give moremoneyto the multibillionaires who run professional football.”

“I think they are taking the opportunity to use this as a revenue grab,” Poloncarz added.

The NFL cites fan experience as the reason for a state-of-the-art stadium, much like the new Levi’s Stadium, in which the San Francisco 49ers will begin to play this season. The stadium features year-round amenities that include a high-end steakhouse.

Poloncarz wasn’t buying it though. “It’s a different beast,” he said. “I don’t think Buffalo Bills fans want a stadium like that. Do they want to pay $100 for a steak dinner? I don’t think so.”

Well, he’s right in that regard. There’s exactly one place in Buffalo that gets away with charging that much for a steak, and that’s why Buffalo’s citizens will have that to worry about no matter who owns the team this fall. Buffalo is a small market by every definition of the word and the region simply can’t bear the expense of a billion-dollar stadium without lots of help from its upstate brethren.

Most Western New Yorkers would rather lose their right arm than the Bills, but if the football team was to ever walk because of a new stadium, citizens should take heart that their local politicians aren’t willing to just throw away the city’s money to appease an organization that ultimately amounts to an entertainment corporation. The Bills are loved by many in Buffalo, but they are not more important than libraries, parks, child protective services, and dozens of other services that could be greatly funded by stadium money. How that affects ownership and potential relocation talks will be decided in the months to come.

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