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Buffalo Bills’ Domed Stadium on Lackawanna’s Waterfront is the Only Place

By John Nowak:

When the Bethlehem Steel plant closed in 1983 (31 years ago), Lackawanna citizens found themselves in a polluted land filled with many large empty buildings.

Twenty years ago Lackawanna citizens, including myself, barely fended off (even by way of death threats) a tire burning plant and medical waste burning faculty to be built on Lackawanna’s waterfront. If not for this victory, there would be smokestacks on Lackawanna’s waterfront today with their exhaust pollution drifting over Buffalo’s Canalside. Much of Buffalo’s waterfront resurgence, revitalization, beautification and saving of the old buildings would have perhaps never solidified the way it has as of late.


Today there is an opportunity that is ripe for the taking. It involves placing the new Bills stadium closer to downtown in a part of the city that would be known as Bethlehem Waterfront Park. It’s as if the land along the waterfront was meant for such a proposal. There’s plenty of room for the stadium, parking, tailgating, and other amenities. If this were to happen, the investment would:

  • Change Western New York’s image forever from the Rust Belt to a Green Belt.
  • Create 1200 acres of usable waterfront, two miles wide and a mile deep of uninterrupted land with plenty of green space projects and parking.
  • Provide a domed stadium (retractable roof) beside a large Outer Harbor, with an impressive front plaza and boardwalk overlooking the harbor.
  • Offer opportunities for other attractions such as a splash lagoon, (possible museums/theme attractions), Woodlawn beach extension, youth athletic areas (football, baseball and soccer), boat ramps, trees, RV/camper sites, amphitheater/elevated patios overlooking the beach with sunset views, picnic shelters, wildlife/bird nursery, art area (think Artpark), garden area (close to Botanical Gardens), restaurant and shopping district on Ridge Road and old Route Five Boulevard.
  • The land has six existing access roads. A seventh fast track thruway connector (quick access to waterfront for thruway drivers, attracts visitors) can be built on an abandoned 2.3 miles railway to link up with Route Five and Waterfront with no tolls. Fast track Route Five, with no stop lights.
  • The domed stadium would be far enough away from the immediate shoreline to protect tens of thousands of tailgating Bills fans from the weather. Take advantage of the air temperature (ten degrees warmer) from the lake as it retains the summer heat in the early season.
  • Highlight the City of Buffalo’s numerous hotels, restaurants, shops and waterfront by connecting the light rail transit system out and along the waterfront to the park.
  • Create an environment that would one day attract the Super Bowl.

Today industry is ramping up again on Lackawanna’s waterfront, where more Lackawanna citizens will be economically yoked to the heavy industry on the waterfront. What will happen next time, when another polluting industry will offer Lackawanna a deal too good to be true, with easy fast money? Will you trust Lackawanna politicians when they see dollar signs in their dreams? We already lost the irreplaceable administration building, when it appeared that the crux of the community was fighting to save it.

I don’t expect the same degree of the steel plant pollution, but it could be another black eye on Western New York’s waterfront if we’re not proactive.

If you’re going to begin a waterfront beautification and revitalization, you must go all the way, and carry it to all parts of the waterfront before it is too late. 

What happens on Lackawanna’s waterfront, does not stay on Lackawanna’s waterfront, It reflects an image and affects all citizens in Greater Buffalo. 

Buffalo is beginning to prosper. A billion dollars is being invested into the city/waterfront, with new buildings going up and architecturally significant buildings being restored. Will Lackawanna ever learn the word “diversify”? Clean, light industry currently on Lackawanna’s waterfront can be relocated with State and Federal grants inland. The entire waterfront must be returned to the people.

The City of Buffalo’s waterfront and the City of Lackawanna’s waterfront are forever connected, each has its own particular strengths. One without the other, can never attain a fullness of stature. The strength of Lackawanna’s waterfront reclaimed, cleaned up and beautified would create a multifaceted appeal. 

If you believe that Lackawanna is the right place to build a new Bills stadium, consider signing this petition that I have created.



Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • chewingwax

    I still think building a floating stadium that could just drift lazily around the city during the Bills games would be a fantastic idea.

  • No_Illusions

    Well no doubt that a lot of this space should be dedicated to public access and parkland, this space is immense! There should be also plans for development as well…you know people who can actually take advantage of the park 365 days of the year.

    Otherwise the park does not really serve anyone. Delware Park is crowded because its surrounded by dense neighborhoods. The Outer Harbor is not because it serves really no neighborhoods, or potentially very few.

  • David Steele

    Cold snowy windy inaccessible location, Plus, for half the fall Sundays, Buffalo is associated with Lackawanna New York. I think It would be far better ton associate Buffalo with Niagara Falls. Not to mention the park could be built without the football stadium. Why do people want to put stadiums on waterfronts amyway?

  • solonggone

    Is this a joke?   Seriously…is it a joke.  At least Ricchiazzi has more pictures.

  • runner68


  • OldFirstWard

    David Steele
    “Why do people want to put stadiums on waterfronts anyway?
    For the ambiance.  To provide a scenic setting.  To allow boat access. To give spectators access to the water and parkland to enhance their days experience on a Sunday afternoon.

  • BuffaloBoi

    Lackawanna Bills?? Get outta here!

  • Publius V Publicola

    Yet another stupid, out of this world plan. Who is the author to suggest Lackawanna is the only location for a Bills Stadium? Any new stadium should be tied to existing transportation, retail and hospitality infrastructures, not created in isolation such as in this plan.

  • PaulJoseph1

    Publius V Publicola Where would you put it in Delaware Park or maybe level some housing complex.

  • saltecks

    I Grew up in La. I recall stories where In severe weather events Bethlehem workers were actually  stranded .   I can just see it now on National Tv. …..
    “Breaking New,,,,NY  national Guard called in to rescue stranded fans at waterfront stadium…”

  • PaulJoseph1

    saltecks I’ve been stranded in suburban Amherst office park – so anything is possible

  • BlizzardCity

    agree with your assessment.  To naysayors: complaining of weather, give me a break. Bad weather as compared to sunny Orchard Park?

  • saltecks

    PaulJoseph1 saltecks Good for you. But in no way are you going to convince me that the wind chill in Amherst comes even close to the wind chill off the lake at Bethlehem.

  • solonggone

    PaulJoseph1 Publius V Publicola
    If you don’t think the Bills should get a new stadium..that’s fine.  If you want them to leave…another valid opinion. 
    However, if you want to keep the Bills past 2022, you’re going to need a new stadium.  What is built is more than a parking lot and traffic.  At the very least it’s a magnet that brings 60,000+ people to a single location from a radius of 60-100miles 8+ times a year for NFL games and that’s before other events that would obviously be smaller.  
    Downtowns are the only places that are designed to manage an influx of 60,000 people in a short period of time.  Buffalo is designed to do this 5 days a week, every week of the year.  The infrastructure is already there.

  • Gratephan

    Author seems to have forgot about the windmills already located here, albeit a good potential location for the stadium.

  • solonggone

    Windmills are the least concerning item.  The amount of remediation needed on that site in order to make it the MS Paint green above would cost more than the development of the project many times over.

  • saltecks

    solonggone Gratephan Not to mention the fact that there were eye witnesses who claimed  that the Army  disposed of  waste material from the Manhattan project on the site, after incinerating it in the blast furnaces.

  • costrander08

    solonggone He’s working on a rebuttal post that features a floating stadium

  • PaulJoseph1

    solonggone PaulJoseph1 Publius V Publicola  Personally I’d rather have a winning team than a new stadium but that another issue.
    I see that magnet effect worked very well for Orchard Park all these years

  • PaulJoseph1

    saltecks solonggone Gratephan hey we dump our crap in the lake, why not.

  • PaulJoseph1

    saltecks PaulJoseph1 As I recall OP suggested a “domed stadium”. Only windchill will be walk to and from your vehicle.

  • PaulJoseph1

    chewingwax Can we tie the big yellow duck to it when it comes to Buffalo?

  • solonggone

    @PaulJoseph1 @Publius V Publicola  
    Just what do you expect someone from Toronto or Rochester to do in Orchard Park?  Serious question?
    Do you expect someone to drive in from Toronto or Rochester on Saturday and:Check into a downtown hotel
    Go out
    Deal with traffic to the game
    Watch the game
    Deal with traffic to DT Buffalo
    Check out of hotel
    Drive back to Toronto
    If you do, you’re naive.  The pitch should be: Drive into DT Buffalo 
    Check into hotel
    Go out Saturday night to eat/drink
    Go out Sunday morning to eat/drink
    Walk to the game
    Watch the game
    Walk back to DT
    Go out more to eat and drink more or Drive back home after the traffic is done
    Notice the difference?  Instead of driving, which is problematic if you’re drinking…a DT stadium would allow for WALKING.  
    Get out of Buffalo and go to any major city that has a regional sports team.

  • costrander08
    nope, it’ll be on goat island perched at the precipice of the falls.

  • David Steele

    OldFirstWard Boat access to football? In winter? Also how does building a football stadium add access to the water and park land.  In Delaware Park I can walk into the park and right up to the water and there is not a stadium in sight!

  • Phillip James

    John Nowak is absolutely on target.  Orchard Park was a huge mistake for several reasons:                                                                                                                                         1. There’s nothing there that says “Buffalo”.  The lake-effect snow gets dumped in the “south-towns…not Buffalo (with the exception of two blizzards that his the city)…everyone in the country is under the impression that it snows all year in Buffalo.                                                                                                                                          2.  When Buffalo gets the chance to “show off” it’s architecture, a false image is the misinterpretation that the Orchard Park stadium is near downtown…perhaps images should be limited to Orchard Park?…let’s see now…there’s nothing in Orchard Park.                                                                                                                                                3.  If a stadium were on the Bethlehem site, it would be greatly centralized for not only Western NY, but Canada well.                                                                                                       4.  Does the option of bringing back industry on the Bethlehem site make sense after taking decades to get rid of all the ugly steel-making structures…of course not.  Utilization of the pockets of contamination on the Bethlehem site would require much less cleanup if those areas were utilized for parking…and the stadium.  Industry does not belong on the shoreline of Lake Erie.  There were justified reasons why the lake brought industry in the previous century, but we all know that this is no longer necessary.                                                                      
    I don’t have the time to say more, other than to comment about the general attitude of those back in my home town, Buffalo.  I reside in Arizona, where believe it or not.. I regret it.  The constant “sun” is boring, the 110 degree summers are obnoxious and unbearable; it has the highest rate of skin cancer; rollover auto accidents are common place.   Getting back to my intended point of Buffalo’s general attitude:  Why must the majority of you be so negative and pessimistic?  Why are you so afraid of success and making bold moves?  I have been engaged (under the radar) in creating a Buffalo waterfront project for over 5 years, waiting for my patents to be in place before I can disclose anything.  I’m beginning to wonder if I’m beating my head against the wall, as it would most likely be easier for me to bring my concept elsewhere.  I wish everyone could be more positive in Buffalo.  In order for Buffalo to once again become a great city, it must do more than restore old buildings.  Wake up people!

  • BeardedBuffalonian

    Very well written John! I think this site, along with the Perry Project site are the two most plausable sites….or maybe even LaSalle Park.

  • fuhrfull

    Most stadiums are built next to existing one because it makes the most sense.  If you put one downtown it will be empty all but 8 days a year!! How about a water park or a convention center at the outer harbor and a rail spur connection it to downtown.  To loose all that space for 8 days a year I don’t think it is a good call.  Make a smaller 50,000 seat dome next to the old one I think is the way to go, and leave the waterfront to much broader use.

  • hockeyhips83

    awesome, build on a toxic waste site, cleanup wouldn’t be terribly expensive right?  I’ve seen signs posting buried asbestos when hiking around there. plus isn’t something like 20% of the Bethlehem steel waterfront landscape made-up of slag?  I hear slag makes for the best beaches and parks.

  • PaulJoseph1


  • brownteeth

    OldFirstWard David Steele What ambiance? the sky on chilly night when the sun sets at 5PM?  The waterfront IS the destination, not the object on the waterfront.  May as well put a movie theater there then.  In order to enjoy the waterfront it would be necessary to actually be able to see it which is difficult when you’re inside a 300′ high bowl.

  • saltecks

    PaulJoseph1 saltecks solonggone Gratephan
    phan  And that is why I don’t swim in the lake, or eat fish caught in the
    lake…But hey,to each his own.

  • saltecks

    PaulJoseph1 saltecks  And  what a great place for a tailgate party ….not.

  • micahh64

    David Steele 
    “Cold snowy windy inaccessible location”
    Like soldier Field?

  • OldFirstWard

    brownteeth David Steele
    What is this delusional mindset that the outer harbor waterfront is some micro space crammed with pleasure boats the size of small city block?  It is ACRES of ACCESSIBLE land.  You can build a stadium and still hold a Woodstock Festival, swim, bicycle, fish, dock your boat, and gather unnoticed while still having plenty of space to spare.  
    A retractable dome allows for use and events ALL YEAR ROUND.  Maybe a pro soccer team, concerts, final four basketball, etc…

  • solonggone

    Sorry. Forgot to assume that some people are too poor to do anything more than pound some blue lights in the parking lot at the Ralph.  Forgot the typical B-lo demographic.

  • costrander08

    Hover stadium located OVER the falls?

  • brownteeth

    OldFirstWard brownteeth David Steele Once again how does having it on the waterfront a draw if you can’t see the waterfront from inside? A dome would be even worse.  I get that there’s lots of vacant land there but it should be reserved for something that takes better advantage of the waterfront.
    There is no added value to having the stadium that’s primary use is winter time on the water unless its in a warm weather climate.  Baseball stadiums maybe, since they have a different design that allows more sight lines to the exterior and don’t hold as many people. Plus they’re used in the summer months.

  • reggdunn

    solonggone Agreed. It seems like 90% of the posters here have never experienced the world outside of Buffalo.

  • OldFirstWard

    brownteeth OldFirstWard David Steele
    “Once again how does having it on the waterfront a draw if you can’t see the waterfront from inside?”
    It is called accessibility to both waterfront and the event.  How the stadium design and waterfront interact is the up to the skill and imagination of the architect.  Tailgating is in itself an event.  People can roam the grounds and explore other amenities on site.  
    BTW, football is played primarily in the fall. Preseason starts in August.

  • GentrifierNumber6

    I can only assume that the author is unaware that this is actually a series of parcels, each with different brownfield issues and corresponding tax credits. A chunk of the land has a 20% refundable tax credit from NYS on all capital improvements grandfathered in without a cap. So, the state would be on the hook for, say, $200M before any other incentives were considered.  A lot of the remediation has already occurred, or at least begun, so that is not as bug of a hurdle as some seem to think. 

    Last I knew, most of the land was still owned by Mittal Steel, and others were controlled by Krog Company out of Orchard Park (which has/had corporate Club seat season tickets, as well). Having worked to try to build a pretty massive greentech manufacturing facility there in the recent past, I can say (in general, without breaking NDAs) that the site presents a lot of challenges that the author does not cover or probably envision.

  • Flyguy2pt0

    Amen re: light rail extension along outer harbor to Lackawanna. Always thought a great termination point/ end of the line station would have been great sited in front of the Bethlehem Steel admin bldg incorporated into a high density transit oriented development node but that is no more. Shoot that light rail straight as am arrow across the Buffalo River. Drop Rt 5, a bike/ ped trail, and light rail into a tunnel structure below the river, taking the skyway out of the picture and freeing up canalside.

  • shiftysixx

    Move the zoo down there too.

  • brownteeth

    OldFirstWard brownteeth David Steele Tying up the waterfront with 10’s of thousands of cars on 8 days a year is hardly encouraging accessibility, especially to have it vacant for the other 357 days a year leaving us with asphalt parking lots for “people to roam.”

  • chewingwax

    If my floating stadium idea won’t fly, I believe the Perry Projects area is by far the best alternative. It’s a no brainer.

  • ImissBuffalo

    chewingwax I completely agree. I believe this is an absolute no brainer. Already substantial parking there for the sabres, and now harbor center, and plus you have the metro rail, and every major roadway in the region are all close by.

  • Buffalo_Chips

    My girlfriend asked me to kiss her where it stinks. So I drove her down to Lackawanna.

  • Buffalo_Chips

    Stadium on the Lackawanna waterfront? Does anyone remember the Blizzard of ’77?

  • DylanBurns

    chewingwax If anyone is curious about the footprint of the Ralph in relation to downtown, I tried messing around with this:

  • sarandy

    Buffalo_Chips What does 40 years ago have to do with today?

  • RPreskop

    This looks like a beautiful and possibly viable plan for a new football stadium and adjacent new development which could help the impoverished city of Lackawanna rebuild its horribly diminished tax base. But there is one seriously thorny issue concerning the Lackawanna waterfront site, can that land be adequately cleaned and remediated to safely accommodate this new development. After all steel mills do leave a lot of toxic waste in the form of slag piles. Can this site be successfully cleaned up and remediated to make it perfectly safe to build on?

  • RPreskop

    BeardedBuffalonian The football stadium does not belong anywhere downtown unless it is totally public transit oriented. The last thing we need downtown are more hideous asphalt deserts known as parking lots. LaSalle Park is a beautiful gem on our waterfront that needs a major makeover. Sticking an NFL monstrosity there would be a huge and horrible mistake. Sports stadiums as economic stimulators are total failures and they do nothing to enhance the urban landscape or the quality of life.  Other than the Lackawanna waterfront, the only other good, sensible locations for the Bills new stadium is the east side next to the Central Terminal on the belt rail line or their current location in Orchard Park.

  • RPreskop

    Phillip James In hindsight, putting the Bills stadium in Orchard Park was not a mistake at all given the serious problems of rowdy, drunken fans and the traffic congestion generated by the football games. We don’t need that nonsense in the city, we have enough serious problems as it is without bringing another negative element into our city. The Bills stadium will do very little to enhance the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of downtown. It would be just another costly silver bullet that will be dead space most of the year. I agree with you that Buffalo needs to be more bold other than just restoring old buildings and we need to embrace new ideas. We still are a bit backward here compared to many other US cities and that is sad. But a new football stadium is just another silver bullet so I am very leery of the whole idea. We have more pressing issues to face in this region rather than giving the Bills free corporate welfare in the form of an unneeded new football stadium at taxpayer expense. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current stadium in Orchard Park. It just needs some major upgrades and it will serve the Bills and their rowdy fans very well for the next 30 to 40 years.

  • RPreskop

    solonggone PaulJoseph1 Publius V Publicola This region has some serious issues that are more important than an NFL football team. As far as I am concerned the Buffalo Area has declined to a point that we might not be able to afford this football franchise. We need to rebuild our economy and attract business that provides good paying employment rather than chasing after costly silver bullets like a new football stadium. As far as I am concerned the NFL can do all of us overtaxed WNY natives a long overdue favor by letting the Bills leave town and moving to Los Angeles. The Bills could even move to Mexico City for all I care. Both Los Angeles and Mexico City have huge populations and huge marketplaces that can easily support an NFL franchise. Buffalo really doesn’t due to its 50+ years of urban and economic decline. We need to face harsh reality, we can no longer afford the Bills. Let them go.

  • waterfrontfuture

    RPreskop Here is a detail environmental study, and the how the clean up would perhaps follow.

  • waterfrontfuture
  • RPreskop

    waterfrontfuture RPreskop Thank you for providing me with this valuable information. I have signed both petitions for the waterfront park and beach extension and for the new Bills stadium. This is an excellent idea granted it will be very costly. But if our country has trillions of tax dollars to spend on unneeded wars in other countries than dammit all they could spare a couple billion to implement this outstanding, visionary plan for the Lackawanna waterfront.  This is definitely a golden opportunity for Western New York to finally get it right.

  • DontSteal

    I have no problem with anything in this article, except that you forgot to answer the question: where is the billion dollars to pay for your fantasy going to come from?!
    Your plan requires the government to steal money from poor people, the middle class and small busineses to pay for your fantasy. Instead of using a drastic increase in taxation to pay for your dreams, if you truly believe in your plan, why don’t you find private investors who will voluntarily fund your effort?
    Reminder: Jerry Jones paid about 3/4 of the $1.4 Billion (inflation adjusted) cost to build Cowboys Stadium.
    There are hundreds of thousands of poor people, middle class and small business owners nearby that will be taxed for a stadium that they’re likely never going to enter.
    Forcing somebody else to pay for your fantasy – that’s what I call “immoral”.