Poloncarz may allow Senecas to repurpose old Bills Stadium for lacrosse rather than fund demolition

(January 7, 2022) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is considering adaptive reuse possibilities for the current Bills Stadium once a new stadium is constructed, whether in Orchard Park or near downtown Buffalo.  Officials in the Poloncarz administration, including Deputy County Executive Maria Whyte, would prefer to find an adaptive reuse solution rather than fund a demolition that is likely to cost between $10 million and $16 million.

In one scenario being contemplated, Erie County would gift the stadium to the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The Seneca Nation is currently conducting a feasibly study for a Haudenosaunee sports venue that would accommodate lacrosse competitions, while others in the Nation are considering the launch of the North American Lacrosse League (NALL) that would compete with the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), World Lacrosse, and the National Lacrosse League (NLL).  A venue of Highmark Stadium’s scale could add momentum to that venture, even after a likely downsizing of the stadium (since the upper decks of stadium seating would be the mostly costly portion of the venue to maintain and the portions that pose the most structural challenges in the future).

Lacrosse is an ancient Iroquois sport that is robust in Haudenosaunee communities today.  Increasingly, tribal economic development officials have been exploring how the sport could generate economic growth for indigenous communities steeped in talent and the sport’s traditions.  Seneca Nation economic development officials believe that other tribal communities and indigenous entrepreneurs would quickly launch their own professional franchises to compete at venues.

Many Seneca economic development officials believe that job creation can be achieved that goes beyond the 18 or 20 athletes on a team’s roster who are typically only paid between $20,000 and $30,000 to play 18-regular-season games.  Officials believe that jobs can be created in merchandising, game-day concessions, broadcasting, advertising sales, and sports marketing.

Lacrosse franchises derive the vast majority of their revenues from tickets, concessions, and sponsorships — with negligible revenue derived from broadcasting.  But many lovers of the sport believe they can change that with better quality broadcasts and access to content distribution platforms — and they are willing to go to the courts to get that access.

Seneca officials believe that their NALL would include twelve founding franchises: Toronto (owned by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga); Montreal (owned by Mohwaks of Kanawake), Ottawa (owned by the Mohawks of Akwesasne), Albany (owned by the Oneidas of New York), Syracuse (owned by the Onondaga Nation), Buffalo (owned by the Seneca Nation of Indians), Rochester (owned by the Tonawanda Senecas), Hamilton, ON (owned by Six Nations of the Grand River), Niagara Falls, NY (owned by the Tuscarora Nation), London, ON (owned by Oneidas of the Thames), Green Bay, WI (owned by the Oneidas of Wisconsin), and Muskoka, ON (owned by the Mohawks of Wahta).

It’s thought that indigenous companies and entrepreneurs would launch expansion teams in subsequent seasons.  Many have speculated that Grand River Enterprises‘ owner Jerry Montour would be interested in launching a franchise in New York City; that businessman Kurt Styres may launch a franchise in Halifax, complimenting his NLL team located there; and that entrepreneur Ross John, Sr would be likely to launch a franchise in Philadelphia.

“Not one single cable channel carried by any of the major telecoms is owned by an indigenous owner.  We want our sports broadcasting channel to be carried on all the major cable service providers, streaming platforms, and available on pay-per-view,” the official explains.  “And we refuse to be discriminated against in a federally regulated market like broadcasting.”

The Seneca Nation believes it will secure initial content distribution deals to broadcast the league’s first season with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States.  They are also planning a subscription-based streaming platform that will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the league.

NLL’s arena lacrosse has several franchises operating in the same footprint that Seneca officials see as a ripe market to enter with another indigenous owned and governed league that would be broadcast to a largely non-indigenous audience.  Some supporters of a new league worry that NLL will offer to waive its franchise fee for Iroquois communities looking to launch a franchise, in aim of thwarting the launch of a competing league. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply