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Bring the Bills Back to Buffalo

Commentary by Jared Pristach

With
football season in full swing, most people in Western New York have got the
Buffalo Bills on their mind.  So
why not bring back talk of a new stadium for our beloved team?  With the lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium
running out in 2013, now is the time to start lobbying for a brand new stadium
in the City of Buffalo.            

Ralph
Wilson Stadium is currently the 5th oldest venue (6th if you count the recently
remodeled Soldier Field) in the National Football League, behind Lambeau Field,
Qualcomm Stadium, Candlestick Park, and Arrowhead Stadium, respectively.  While it does have one of the larger
capacities in the NFL, it simply does not have the charisma that most other
stadiums have.  It’s built out in
Orchard Park rather than in Buffalo, and is fairly difficult to reach if you’re
traveling from the Northtowns. Why shouldn’t a new stadium be built within the City of Buffalo, where
the team belongs?            

Jim
Kelly has publicly stated that he supports the idea of a brand new stadium on
the Buffalo waterfront.  Rather
than placing a stadium along Lake Erie, I believe a stadium could be placed
along the Buffalo River, particularly across the river just south of the base
of Smith St.  This would place the
stadium a mere 5 minutes from downtown Buffalo, and would give several
advantages over “The Ralph” down in Orchard Park.            

Revitalization
of Brownfields
: While Hickory Woods was a clear indication that neighborhoods
cannot be built on top of old brownfields, perhaps a new approach can be taken
by building a stadium in these abandoned lots.  This could be a great example for other Rust Belt cities as
to what to do with these contaminated sites.            

Waterfront
Development
: The Buffalo River is largely forgotten in our region, but it truly
is a gem that should be used and included in waterfront development.  The river has greatly
improved in recent years (thanks to efforts by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the
South Buffalo Green Team, Erie County, and several other groups), and would be
a beautiful site for a new stadium.            

Preservation
of Grain Elevators
: By building a stadium on the peninsula located across the
river from the foot of Smith Street, Buffalo would have a unique opportunity to
preserve its past while blending it with the future.  The old Concrete Central grain elevator currently dominates
this portion of the Buffalo River, but a new stadium could be built using the
elevator as its western wall.  No
other stadium in the NFL or even the world would look as unique as this one.            

Opportunity
for Light Rail Transport
: By placing a stadium on this peninsula, not only
would there be ample space for parking and even a field house, but there is the
possibility of incorporating a light rail system into the stadium.  This section of South Buffalo has
plenty of railway lines, and with federal money available for ground
transportation, a light rail system could be installed and utilized to its full
potential.  A light rail system
would also eliminate parking costs for those fans that don’t like to tailgate,
alleviate traffic congestion, and would cut down on drunk driving.  For those fans who do decide to drive
to the games, pedestrian bridges across the river could connect the parking
lots with the stadium, adding to the grandeur of a new field.            

Plenty
of “Green” Opportunities
: In recent years, the Buffalo Niagara region
has become one of the leaders in the “green” economy, so it’s only
fitting that a brand new venue should be a green one, and not just on the
field.  By placing a stadium along
the Buffalo River, there are plenty of opportunities to utilize technologies
such as geothermal heating and cooling. 
In addition, the stadium could be one of the first to use solar panels
to help power the stadium (since Buffalo is the sun capital of the Northeast).

Put
the Buffalo back in the Bills
: This may be purely aesthetic, but shouldn’t the Buffalo
Bills be in the City of Buffalo?  A
new stadium in this location would put the Bills back where they belong (and
won two championships, I might add). 
At the same time, the new location would make travel easier on people
traveling from the Northtowns, the city, and Canada.  Don’t worry though, you Southtowns fans, the drive up to
Buffalo isn’t as bad as you think.            

Currently,
the biggest hurdle for this project is money (since the county budget is
already extremely tight and the politicians in Albany might as well be throwing
it into the Hudson).  However,
owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. isn’t getting any younger, and it’s anyone’s guess as
to how much longer it will be before the team goes up for sale.  

The best way to keep the Buffalo Bills
in Buffalo is to attract potential buyers with plans for a new stadium.  The county and state need to start
looking at the Bills as an investment rather than an expense.  If (and I realize that this is a big
“if”) our politicians can be convinced that spending the money now
will pay off dividends later on, the Bills will stay in Buffalo, and perhaps
the city and region will start to experience some real growth.  If not, the chances of our team staying
in the region are greatly diminished once Mr. Wilson dies.  

We’ve been the best, most loyal fans in
North America.  It’s time to reward
our team and us.

Jared is a lifelong resident of Western New York, currently studying at Manhattan College toward a degree in environmental engineering.


Image: ECB

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