Poloncarz on calls for new Bills stadium: ‘Show me the books’

Mar 29, 2016

Ralph Wilson Stadium
Credit WBFO File Photo

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is challenging calls by some N.F.L. team owners who say the Buffalo Bills will begin to lose their revenue viability if a new stadium isn’t built.

Poloncarz has, for some time, been a proponent of the Bills current home, Ralph Wilson Stadium, saying that it has an infrastructure capable of lasting another 25 years.

“But if the N.F.L. is going to go out and say the Bills are not viable unless they get a new stadium, well then, as I’ve said repeatedly, ‘Show me the books. Prove to me they’re not viable,’” said Poloncarz.

He said he knows the Bills are viable, and that the calls for a new stadium are not just about the team making money.

“The N.F.L. wants them to make the most possible, which in this market I’m not so certain they can do if we invest hundreds of millions of dollars on a new stadium.”

The renovated Buffalo Sabres locker room
Credit WBFO News file photo

For more than five years, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula have made substantial investments in Western New York. In 2011, they spent $9 million on renovations at the First Niagara Center, including updates to the Buffalo Sabres locker room. In 2013, they broke ground on neighboring HarborCenter, with a price tag of $172 million.

If calls for a new stadium are answered, it might be up to the Pegulas to foot the Bill. Poloncarz said it would be a $900 million endeavor.

“The Pegulas would have to invest a significant amount of money themselves. The government certainly wouldn’t do it alone and, as I said, I don’t necessarily see a need right now,” said Poloncarz. “Mr. Pegula’s publicly gone out and said he’s happy with the stadium. The Wilsons didn’t want a new stadium. Mr. Wilson wanted to renovate and we renovated it.”

Poloncarz voiced disappointment in the N.F.L. owners who are calling for the new stadium.

“They don’t care about Buffalo. They only care about their bottom line,” said Poloncarz.

In light of last week’s New York Times article that revealed N.F.L. research on concussions to be flawed, Poloncarz said any statements from the league should be taken with a grain of salt.

“They’ve been shown repeatedly in the past to not be truthful about the issues associated with concussions and [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] and I’m a little worried about what they’re saying now if it’s really necessary,” said Poloncarz.