County Legislature candidate Katrinna Martin is calling on Erie County to back a new Buffalo Bills stadium in downtown Buffalo, near the City’s redeveloping Cobblestone District — and she has a plan to do so that won’t burden County property taxpayers.
“We have the among the very worst stadiums in the NFL — but we have the very best fans — and we all deserve a high-caliber venue that we can be proud of — and that will help the team recruit players who really crave to play here,” Martin explains. “A better stadium will help us recruit an even better team.”
Martin is preparing a bipartisan lobbying effort of Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure that Western New York gets its fair share from New York State. Downstate stadiums have received massive construction subsidies. The Mets’ stadium in Queens received more than $400 million in state capital alone.
“We need leaders who fight for what we are due from Albany,” she explains. “I’m going to fight for this entire City like nobody has ever seen before, and we’re going to make sure every community in Western New York gets a fair share.”
Martin wants Empire State Development to construct a public-private partnership agreement with the National Football Leauge, Terry and Kim Pegula, TM Montante, Delaware North Companies, and M&T Bank.
By expanding participation in that investment vehicle, Martin argues that we can alleviate the County from the current Bills lease, and help the Pegulas negotiate directly with the Cuomo administration on Western New York’s behalf.
TM Montante owns a vast surface parking lot near the Key Bank Center that is seen, from an urban design perspective, as the easiest site around which to build public support for the project. Delaware North is expected to participate in the project as a long-term operator of the venue’s concession business, and M&T Bank is seen as a capable financier that could do well on the project.
The County refused to begin planning for a long-term replacement to New Era Field in 2013, when the County’s lease agreement with the Buffalo Bills was up for renewal. The County offered only limited improvements to the venue, and that10-year lease ends in 2023. Fans worry that the Pegulas have little incentive to keep the Bills in town.
Some critics blame an ‘elitist attitude’ that they perceive from the County Executive’s office, noting a condescending and dismissive attitude towards the NFL franchise — which most other communities would kill for.
“Right now we have wine-and-cheese guys in office, not the beer-and-wings guys,” explains one member of the Bills Mafia who asked not to be named. “The County is quick to throw money at the Albright Knox and other ‘cultural’ spending on art groups that are more to elite tastes, while refusing to do something for Bills fans because they look down on us for our ‘low-brow’ culture.”
With the NFL willing to contribute $400 million, the State willing contribute $400 million, coupled with the legalization of in-stadium sports betting, she argues that the project is financeable in short order — and that it stands to create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs in the process.
Martin pledges to ensure that Buffalonians will benefit from the infrastructure project in a broadly inclusive way. She imagines ‘the new tailgating’ to include dozens of artisan street vendors, beer tents, and food trucks lining the streets of the cobblestone district on game days — and she wants to make sure that small locally owned businesses are at the heart of that experience.
With such a substantial public-private infrastructure project, Martin believes that Erie County’s construction industry will finally be able to meet the Minority and Women-owned contracting and hiring goals that it has fallen short of for so many decades.
“When we finally have the leadership that’s capable of big ideas, I’m going to make sure that my District 1 constituents stand to benefit from infrastructure investments like we never have before,” she explains.