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Pay Your Own Bills

by on October 26, 2011

Liking the Bills has nothing to do with liking their subsidies. The franchise would be far more endearing if they didn’t keep their costs low by means of corporate welfare. It’s such a cheap way to stay competitive.

According to a prominent professional Orchard Park-based team, football’s greatest life lesson involves begging for handouts in lieu of competing on one’s own. Ralph Wilson Stadium needs fixing, and its billionaire namesake certainly isn’t going to cover the cost:

Ralph Wilson Stadium requires an extensive facelift expected to cost tens of millions in taxpayer dollars for a project that would be tied to the Buffalo Bills renewing their lease with both state and county governments within two years, The Associated Press has learned.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon told the AP that the team has hired a world-leading architectural firm, Populous, which specializes in sports facility projects to conduct a thorough study of what improvements are necessary to both upgrade the stadium’s existing structure and add fan-friendly, revenue-generating enhancements.

Why not turn to “a world-leading architectural firm” when you’re making someone else pay for their services? Give them a stadium suite with unlimited frankfurter privileges if they want it, too. Brandon naturally went through the motions of pointing out that Western New Yorkers better pay if they really love this team more than Angelenos would:

Brandon called the renovations and upgrades necessary in order keep the stadium viable and competitive with many of the NFL’s newer facilities to help ensure the Bills long-term future in western New York.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Bills fans or not, residents involuntarily paid to upgrade the stadium in 1997. It’s a precedent that deserves to be broken, especially considering the price tag:

Erie County Executive Chris Collins told the AP he is expecting the cost to range anywhere from $40 million to more than $100 million.

Making the whole state pay offers little comfort, even if it’s amusing to know that Giants and Jets fans are helping fund the Ralph’s improvements:

Collins is on board with the renovations and expects New York State to foot much of the bill. He said the county doesn’t have the financial resources, and Albany has more to gain with the Bills staying in Orchard Park.

After all, the whole purpose of government is to spend your money. You didn’t think it was to serve you, did you?

Collins estimates the state earns $20 million in taxes from the Bills, who are the only NFL team based in New York. By example, he said, if the cost of the renovations is $80 million, then the state could recoup that money within four years.

Who knew it was such a breeze to raise money? It’s especially easy when the initial investment isn’t draining one’s own account. Apparently, you just take earnings from taxpayers to generate more tax revenue. People simply couldn’t spend their wages themselves on what they wanted:

“If somebody said to you or me, ‘I can give you an investment that gives you a 25 percent return every year guaranteed for the next 10 or 20 years,’ I think we’d jump all over that,” Collins noted. “We have a role to play, and I’m fully prepared on behalf of taxpayers to play the appropriate role to make sure Albany plays their appropriate role.”

Residents don’t need the executive burning through their paychecks on their behalf. Collins’s willingness to spend other people’s money proves that there’s no perfect candidate, which is a sober lesson to remember while voting. Transferring public funds to a private business is part of why the area’s financial situation persistently stinks:

As one of the NFL’s smaller-market teams, and based in an economically troubled community, the Bills have spent much of the past 11 years regionalizing their team to offset Buffalo’s population drain.

The stadium project is the next step to attempt to boost revenue for a franchise that traditionally has among the lowest-priced tickets in the NFL.

They could charge higher ticket prices if people had more of their own money to spend instead of sending it to Albany to ultimately fund things like… low-cost NFL tickets. Whining about a small market size is easier than making it bigger.

Area politicians will use any excuse to justify handouts to a football team that should be self-sufficient. The Bills hope that you don’t notice that, prior to their unexpected ability to win games so far this season, they’ve been an embarrassment to the ghost of Tommy Hughitt for the past decade despite allegedly being helped by a salary cap through 2009.

Blame management and ownership for a largely rotten product since the end of the Clinton administration. That said, they have been skilled in acquiring money from the county and state. All they have to do is promise not to skip town as long as they get everything they want.

Getting a loan to improve their own place of business is apparently out of the question. Compared to how the Bills have preyed upon the emotions of fans who constantly fret about the prospect of their team playing all its home games in a different state or country, four wins in six games was the hard part.


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