Would the Pegulas be willing to manage UB teams in stadium deal?

It looks increasingly likely that Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s administration is preparing to back a $1 billion investment in a new NFL stadium in downtown Buffalo.  Just last month, Terry Pegula hired Chris Schoepflin, the former Empire State Development official, to lead Pegula Sports & Entertainment‘s external affairs operation.

It is widely expected that the State of New York will contribute half of the capital required for the project (between $400 and $600 million depending on the specifics of the stadium’s eventual design), with the NFL funding much of the balance. The possible ‘public-private partnership’ enjoys broad-based public support in Western New York.

But some activists want Pegula to commit to managing the University at Buffalo’s football, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse teams — as a public service to the community.  Sports enthusiasts believe that each of those four collegiate teams could become highly profitable if they enjoyed marketing operations similar to major league teams. Pegula Sports and Entertainment hopes to scale its sports management business by providing such services to sports franchises they don’t own outright.

Given the congruence of the firm’s growth strategy and the University’s desire to better monetize the teams for the long-term benefit of the University’s endowment, such an arrangement could be a proverbial ‘win’ for all involved.

In preliminary proposals, Pegula Sports & Entertainment would manage and operate the four teams for a fee, perhaps 20% of each team’s operating profits, largely intended to cover team-building costs.  The bulk of the teams’ operating profits would accumulate to the UB Foundation.  

Proponents of the plan say that it is about more than merely the good economics of better utilizing a new stadium. They say it will make each of the teams’ athletic performance better.

“Imagine bringing all of that training infrastructure and athletic expertise under the same roof, so that they can lean on each others’ specializations,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, explains.

“The athletes will also enjoy a greater sense of local community by being immersed into an ecosystem full of other high caliber athletes,” he adds.  “That will help all of Pegula’s teams attract, cultivate, and keep talent here.”

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