when nfl team owners buffalo bills terry and kim pegula were negotiating with the city of buffalo to hand over a large chunk of taxpayer money for a new $1.5 billion stadium, they made an unlikely threat: move to austin.
With a passionate fan base, talk of renegotiation and the power of the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, however, the move seems more unlikely than ever a month after the rumors began.
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News of the proposal first leaked on August 1 when espn’s seth wickersham reported that the team was eyeing austin and cited the city as one of “other cities elsewhere wanting a franchise from the nfl and they would pay handsomely for it.”
many saw austin as a pawn for the pegulas to negotiate a $1.5 billion stadium paid for entirely by new york state taxpayers, but the negotiations still provoked a response from the government. Greg Abbott and Mayor Steve Adler, who opened up a discussion about possible new team names (his Austin Amps idea was particularly unpopular).
the lease on the tickets expires in 2023, and their current home at highmark stadium is nearing 50. the pegulas say they have spent roughly $146 million on renovations since their purchase in 2014 and much more is needed to renovate the stadium completely.
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Instead of staying put or making an expensive move to downtown Buffalo, the team released a new stadium proposal Tuesday for a $1.4 billion stadium in a team-controlled parking lot down the street. The stadium, which was cut in budget from an original proposal of $1.9 billion, will include 60,000 seats and 60 suites and is expected to be completed by 2027.
But instead of tapping into his fracking-fueled wealth (forbes has estimated his net worth to be around $6 billion), the pegulas are seeking a significant chunk of the city’s funds.
“The expectation is that the state and county will be asked to cover more than 50% of the project, raising concerns about the potential for taxpayer funding,” said the associate press’s john wawrow.
The idea of ”public-private partnership” is controversial at best. By comparison, the New York Giants and Jet’s MetLife Stadium were entirely privately funded at $1.6 billion. team owners argue that sports teams boost local economies and pay off in the long run; the economic study of the bills estimates that the team generates $361 million each year in the region.
But University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson told the AP that the economic impact is much smaller than that.
“The answer is zero: sports stadiums are not catalysts for economic development,” said Sanderson. “They just greatly enrich the team, the league and the owner of the franchise.”
there is pressure on the new york leadership. in 2019, the new york government. Andrew Cuomo received significant criticism after opting to give $3 billion in cash, grants and tax breaks for a corporate campus in Queens in a plan that later fell through.
still, the odds are in buffalo’s favor to keep the franchise: new governor. Kathy Hochul is a fan of the bills and said she “didn’t feel threatened” by talk of moving to Austin.
“Let the fans know we’re very excited about the upcoming season and hope the bills will be here for a long time,” Hochul said.
Dallas Cowboys fans are some of the most loyal. (CC)
another threat to the so-called “austin amps” is jerry jones and his commitment to keeping much of texas “cowboy country”. Two plans to move the NFL franchises to San Antonio fell through, at least partially, at the hands of Jones, who has significant influence in NFL affairs. And Austin, who just got his first pro team at Austin FC and may not be ready for another franchise, probably couldn’t compete against one of the most committed fan bases in the NFL.
with bill officials not even contacting city officials after the announcement, it looks like austin will have to settle for austin fc and good texas football for the foreseeable future.
“It’s time to make a stadium that we believe can ensure the Bills are here and successful for many, many decades to come,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told news4buffalo. “We’re focused on keeping the bills here in a new ballpark in a public-private partnership. That’s what this is all about and that’s where we’re focusing.”