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With new owner, is time right for downtown Bills stadium?

After Terry Pegula’s winning bid for the Buffalo Bills (NFL), the time may be right for the team to work on development of a new downtown Bills stadium.

It’s pretty clear the future of the team isn’t at Ralph Wilson Stadium, no matter what some local and state politicos like Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz might say: it’s an outdated facility that lacks the amenities modern fans expect as part of the NFL experience. And Pegula is a major player in downtown Buffalo: he owns the Buffalo Sabres (NHL), who play at First Niagara Center. It’s natural he’d want to consolidate his holdings in the same area. Add to that some serious investment happening in the HarborCenter/Canalside area, where Pegula is investing in a new hotel complex, and you have a convergence of interests regarding a new downtown Bills stadium. From the Buffalo News:

A new downtown stadium near First Niagara Center would allow Pegula to build on the sports-related hub that already is growing at the foot of Main Street and help him leverage the $172 million he is spending to build the HarborCenter complex, which will feature two ice rinks and a 205-room Marriott hotel, as well as a 13,000-square-foot sports-themed restaurant and retail space.

Game-day traffic would help fill the hotel on football weekends and bring tens of thousands of fans downtown to potentially shop and eat at the HarborCenter. Attaching a convention center to the stadium complex, which would fill a need to upgrade the city’s major meeting space, would expand the spin-off, while also adding significantly to its price tag.

It would be cheaper to fix up Ralph Wilson Stadium, to be sure, both for whoever is funding the improvements and fans buying tickets to a game. But there aren’t many opportunities for leaders to shape the destiny of such an important regional resource like downtown Buffalo, and adding an NFL stadium to the mix would fit in what’s currently being invested there.

Here’s a look at some potential locations.

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August Publications