Hochul: Bills ‘had option to leave’ Buffalo before stadium deal

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BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Cities that recently lost NFL teams contacted the Bills about a possible move before a new stadium deal was reached, Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement Wednesday. New York radio interview.

“They had options to leave,” Hochul said during an appearance on WNYC. “It weighs on New Yorkers — Western New Yorkers in particular. The decision was made to get the best possible deal for taxpayers.

Host Brian Lehrer followed Hochul up and asked if the threat of relocation was just a bluff by the team’s billionaire owners to get more public funding.

“I knew they were contacted by other cities that had already lost teams. It’s real,” Hochul replied. “Their stadium was starting to fall apart, something had to happen. And if there was no decision made quickly, they certainly had other options.

Oakland, St. Louis and San Diego have all seen their NFL franchises move over the past decade. Bills fans have long worried about a possible move to Toronto, and ESPN reported in August that Austin, Texas might be interested in paying to acquire a franchise.

Hochul specifically mentioned San Diego later in the interview.

“All my life there’s been talk of them going to Toronto…Buffalo is a very small market. It’s quite extraordinary that they have a team,” she said. “Because there’s a lot more money to be had in these big cities like San Diego and others that would love to have a team. So that’s a reality that most people probably don’t know about.

Buffalo is the 53rd largest media market in the nation, according to Nielsen’s 2021 rankings, making it one of the smallest markets in the league: Jacksonville is 43rd, New Orleans is 50th and Green Bay-Appleton is 69th . (Rochester and southern Ontario are not included in the Buffalo AMD.)

The stadium agreement and accompanying rental agreement announced on March 28 keep the team in Buffalo for 30 years with a new $1.4 billion stadium slated to open in 2026. The state is paying for most of the stadium’s construction — $600 million — though that includes hundreds of millions of long-awaited Seneca casino payouts which had been retained. Hochul said the rest will be paid for through athlete taxes.

“I wasn’t going to give away the shop,” Hochul said. “The first question was: can we finance 100% with public funds? …I said no, no way. No. We don’t do that. In the end, 43% of the total cost is state money. But when you factor in the income tax that we’re going to take from the ball players – they’re very well paid athletes – we’ve got that paid only in new state revenue over these, about 22 years , it is paid. ”

“I really understand people’s concern and anxiety about this, and I get it. Really,” Hochul added to the downstate audience, making the analogy that the Bills are to Buffalo what Broadway is to New York. “I’m not trying to say their concerns aren’t real and legitimate, but again, I get a lot of questions when I’m in other parts of the state about how much we spend on transportation in New York Common, MTA and other stuff. So I have been engaged in this debate no matter where I go.

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