Footballers and Homeowners

Being against public funding for a new Bills stadium is entirely different from being against the Bills. A sterling new building in a more logical location would be a chance for this team to learn the joys of home ownership. The governor is assembling a task force when the owner should be buying a vacant lot. Instead of waiting for politicians to hand him charity, it’s time for the latter to dust off his checkbook. Everyone else should ask if the supposed need for subsidies is because the economy is bad or if the economy is bad because of subsidies.

 (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Buffalo’s stadium committee should start and end with Ralph Wilson. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The figurative new home should ultimately be paid for by fans as a matter of practicality and pride. Charging a ticket surcharge to fund a new place beats channeling capital through Albany, which is not quite known for prudent investment. The developments they fund often sadly stand alone. Also, notice what’s not there. As with the useful player the Bills never got because of drafting, say, Willis McGahee, we never see what could have been built in an alternate scenario. Imagine what we could have done on our own.

As with the game itself, success in placing a football venue is a matter of picking the right spot. The last time around, planners not-quite wisely stuck a major project in a suburb, which created congestion that would’ve been more easily absorbed by an increasingly vacant downtown. Playing in Buffalo instead of just near it makes sense not just so EJ Manuel could walk to work from a loft.

Some low costs only sound like a good deal. Affordable ticket prices are a case of false economy, as every New Yorker subsidizes the team through taxes whether or not they enjoy football. Without such a drag on finances, people might be able to earn enough to gladly pay premium seat costs.

Sending money down the I-90 in the hope more will be returned westward is not a fun contest. It supposedly spurs other jobs into existence if it happens. But we’re still waiting. And any company can claim it’s a big help. Wegmans could demand assistance by pointing out subsequent commercial activity near its stores. Instead, they content themselves with peddling paper towels and cinnamon rolls. Any investment by Albany should have paid off by now, yet the only one in better shape seems to be the primary recipients of aid.

Running a new stadium as a for-profit business would lead to it being kept in better condition than under the county’s hand. Ownership is the ultimate motivator. A large-capacity bowl in private hands could host more than football as the present venue once did, even if the hippies can’t return every summer to see the Dead on account of Jerry Bear being gone.

Money to get things started could come as quickly as making a custom sign. Naming the place after a business instead of an ego is an easy way to raise revenue. The allegedly poverty-stricken team and government somehow haven’t convinced a business to pay for what to call the current stadium. A rich owner can better cement his legacy by constructing a glorious barn downtown to house his team than by slapping his signature on it.

Ralph Wilson should be the only one on the stadium committee. He can start the meeting by getting estimates from contractors. It beats exploiting the area that has made him very wealthy by using their adoration for his business as leverage to get corporate welfare. We’ll recoup the involuntary investment as soon as Aaron Maybin earns his contract.

As with those who favor different draft strategies, it’s important to remember that everyone wants the franchise and area to prosper. People who think the Bills deserve state support are after what’s best, just like everyone following the team is free to disagree with personnel decisions. However, expecting Wilson to pony up for his own business’s headquarters is a reasonable position. As always, the one thing he can count upon is fans pitching in on the effort.

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy recently moved back to Buffalo from New York City and acts like he never left. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He likes getting Tim Hortons on the way to get Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.