THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Rather than funding a $40 million demolition of the old Buffalo Bills stadium — to accommodate a surface parking lot that will only be used eight days a year — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz should instead gift it to the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Doing so could reduce the County’s share of the stadium project from $250 million to $210 million — a significant savings for local homeowners who will funding their share of the project with higher property taxes.
Such a strategy to reduce the County budget’s operating costs by off loading dated assets to the Nation would be nothing new. During gaming compact negotiations in 2002, in a concession to New York State, the Nation agreed to repurpose Niagara Falls’ aging, underutilized, and badly unprofitable convention center for its first gaming venue in Western New York.
That the Seneca Nation was willing to do so saved millions of dollars a year in operating deficits and tens of millions more in repairs that would have been required to stay in the convention business.
Structurally, the stadium has at least two more decades of useful life — and once the upper decks are removed — it could have decades more. Many Senecas aspire to cultivate the sport of lacrosse into an economic development engine for indigenous communities in the United States and Canada, and some have called on the Tribal Council to charter and regulate a sovereign league.
Having two major sports venues co-located in Orchard Park would better position the area to attract the type of large-scale spin off development that taxpayers typically expect of such large public investments.
It would certainly be better than a surface parking lot that’s only used eight days a year.