After speaking numerous times to developers Paul Ciminelli and Rocco Termini, per where the new Buffalo Bills stadium should be built (downtown or Orchard Park), it was suggested that the three of us sit down to discuss the opportunities at hand. Heading into the discussion, Paul was airing on the side of building the stadium in OP, while Rocco was adamant that the stadium be built downtown, while creating a sports district in the process.
It was Paul who suggested that I record the conversation. Rocco agreed. We met up at the back room of The Place restaurant, which turned out to be perfect, because the owners just built a cozy new fireplace. As a way to up the stakes, I suggested that the loser of the debate would have to buy the winner lunch. At the end of the conversation, I would determine who would be buying who lunch. While I will not disclose who the winner was, you are free to determine for yourself who you think paid for the meal.
After sitting down to our fireside table, I hit record on my phone, and away we went.
Following is the resulting audio file:
During lunch (post discussion), Rocco and Paul both agreed that it might be wise to talk to more local developers, to see what their sentiments are. The thought is, if there is a growing consensus of intuitive people who feel strongly about the stadium location, one way or another, their voices should also be heard. There is even potential to form a local advisory committee – something that should have been done well before this point in time.
After the discussion, I asked both Paul and Rocco if they had any additional thoughts or statements to make, pertaining to the future location of the stadium.
Paul: Our discussion was a chance to discuss some of the pros and cons. To challenge some of the assumptions that are part of the narrative. The process should play itself out and be as transparent as possible. It should also be done in a timely fashion, to bring this to a conclusion so that we can move on.
Rocco: People have to remember that the cheapest seat licensing is going to be $5000 – that’s to be paid before seat holders even pay for their tickets. Plus, there will be 15,000 fewer seats. This is how they are going to raise money to build the new stadium. Do you think that young people who tailgate are going to be able to go to games anymore? That’s another reason that it’s got to go downtown, so that everyone can enjoy the party atmosphere in a sports district, filled with bars and restaurants, where everyone can celebrate. There will be a lot of disenfranchised people that won’t be able to attend games anymore.
The more that we look at building the stadium downtown, the more that we are realizing that it would be cheaper to do so, if you look at all of the different ways to finance it. Plus, building at a new site would allow for geothermal heating, which would lower the operational costs. And why aren’t we talking about a dome? People couldn’t give away tickets to last night’s game… can you imagine if it was centrally located in close proximity to public transportation, and protected from the elements? And with a dome, there could be a lot more uses for the stadium. I’m currently talking to people at nbbj – they have built 20 domed stadiums. We should at least weigh all of the options, no? Once again, it seems as if we’re being told what’s best for us, without actually considering what’s best for Buffalo, and the region. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should not be taken lightly.
Look at the land that surrounds the Orchard Park stadium. It’s a ghost town when there’s not a Bills game. It’s all parking lots – no one is investing out there. There are very few bars and restaurants. It’s not going to change either. We have a chance to build a sports district that will include bars and restaurants, hotels, and ancillary businesses, all connected by the Metro Rail and train service. We should be looking at the big picture, and not settle for such a small piece of the pie.
One thing for sure is, the way that it is all heading right now, the public is going to be asked for their input after a decision has already been made. That’s the way that it goes around here, unfortunately. We should be part of the decision making process, since so much public funding is involved.
Erie County Legislature Mark Poloncarz will hold another virtual public hearing tonight (Tuesday, December 7) at 6pm, to take public comments on whether to build a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills, and, if so, where to build. Click here to register to speak.