Deadspin: Bills’ lease agreement a ‘horrifying, evil thing’
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • December 27, 2012 @ 1:29pm
Call it a grudge from downstate, a short-sighted diatribe or a well-reasoned argument that points to a larger problem—but Deadspin editor Barry Petchesky is passionately upset about the Buffalo Bills’ 10-year lease agreement to remain in Western New York.
The heart of Petchesky’s argument is this: taxpayers from all over the state shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the majority of the renovations of Ralph Wilson Stadium or any other stadium in the league, for that matter.
As an organization, the Buffalo Bills are on the hook for only $44 million of the $271 million demanded for renovations. New York State must foot $123 million of the bill, according to Petchesky’s article, while Erie County tacks on another $103 million. When we initially were hooked on the figure of $135 million, a total shared relatively equally between the state, Erie County and the Bills, the initial response was shock at the low number.
Here’s a snippet from Tom Precious’ Buffalo News article:
A total of $130 million will be spent on a range of renovations at the aging stadium. Of that, the Bills will kick in $35 million, which is different from past deals with the state that included no team contribution. The state and county will share the remaining $95 million renovation costs – with $54 million coming from the state and $41 million from the county.
When annual payments by the state were factored in, however, the total cost of the lease rose to $271 million, with $123 million at the state’s expense. Here’s evidence:
We and others have railed against the outrage of public financing for stadiums for years, but it’s still shocking to see in 2012 a textbook case of a community held for ransom, forced to give in to every last demand of a franchise threatening to move.
Was Buffalo truly held hostage by the team in this lease agreement, or is this just Petchesky, who works in New York City-based Gawker Media, releasing bitterness about how down-staters won’t benefit from these renovations at all? Does he not realize the percentage of our taxes that go to back infrastructure upgrades in New York City?
That’s the rotten core of every public financing agreement—people who don’t care, who have no financial stake in the matter, who may not even like sports at all, pay out of their own pockets to help some billionaire owner get richer.
This is not “new” news—there are plenty of Buffalonians who don’t remotely care about sports, yet (most of them) quietly pay their taxes because they understand how important the Bills’ existence is for the city’s morale and pride, even if these are intangibles. Significant evidence may exist to discourage the building of new stadiums to bolster an NFL city’s economy—take the Minnesota Vikings and Phoenix Coyotes for example—but I haven’t seen a study that claims the presence of an NFL franchise hinders a local economy.
Feedback from Buffalo media personalities has been largely negative toward the Deadspin article, arguing that it’s only fair that New York City foot some of the bill, and that Buffalo is a vital piece of the fabric that makes up New York State—there’s more than just one city in New York State that needs to be nurtured financially.