This past weekend a group called Buffalo Fan Alliance, online based, announced that a plan has been put together for fans of the Buffalo Bills to add to a fund designed to entice the potential new owner of the Bills, or current owner Ralph Wilson Jr., to keep the team in Buffalo. They have a lofty fund target of $100 to $170 million to be used for stadium upgrades, or better yet, a new one.
The “idealist” group that put this together should be commended for giving it their all in trying to keep their most precious community unifying commodity in Buffalo. Is it enough though? With a population in the decline and two professional teams, does it make sense to keep the team where it has always been?
The Buffalo Fan Alliance fund seems to be a good start. The most recent renovations to the Bills stadium have cost the county upwards of $130 million dollars. This plan strikes of the Green Bay Packer model, a team that is very similar in size and viability to Buffalo’s, but it may not be enough. You can get all the donations needed from every fan of the Bills but unfortunately what really matters is the set landscape of Buffalo.
For the Bills to really stay in Buffalo, a new stadium will be a must. Ralph Wilson Stadium is now the 6th oldest in the NFL and dwarfed by the new stadiums of Dallas, San Francisco and New York (Each costing near billions to construct). By the sheer numbers alone the fund is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what the tax payers of the county would have to pony up in order to make this happen.
Remember the 2012 proposal by a group to build a new stadium along Lake Erie’s Outer Harbour that failed in 2012 not even making it past the City, County and State advisory boards? A fund like this one may not even wet the palate of politicians to step up to the plate and secure a long term future for the Bills in Buffalo.
Given that the politicians seem to be just waiting for a new owner before going desperate enough to delve in to it, what other option do the Bills have? One possibility could be the Jamestown native and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell is the lead on NFL owner approval for whomever decides to open up his wallet and purchase the Bills, and after the Pilot J scandal from the Cleveland Browns owner Jim Haslam, Goodell will most likely NOT sign off with whomever has the biggest pockets. Instead he will be looking for the cleanest record. That translates into someone that will keep the NFL brand from being tarnished and an original AFL franchise moving would create a blemish for the league and to his image as well.
Outside of Goodell, a fund and the nervousness of the politicians isn’t much for the Bill’s fans to have faith in. The stadium lease locks the Bills until 2019, but what happens after is the big question that hangs over everyones mind. Bills football, even though it has been down throughout the decade, is sort of like a right of passage and losing that could affect the town more than the closing of Bethlem Steel back in 1982.
As an AFC east fan, i hope it works and sparks some communication on how to keep the Bills future in Buffalo. For now the fun is at the very least a year away from actually making an impact and realizing it’s potential. In the meantime lets hope that this act by the fans signals to any new potential owner that the community in Buffalo loves the Bills and they will do what must be done to keep the team where it is.