SBD/April 11, 2014/Franchises

Bills Stadium Group Considering Options Including Niagara Falls, The Univ. At Buffalo

Canadians make up about 18% of the Bills' season-ticket base
Several members of the Bills New Stadium Working Group said that they are "considering sites that would put it closer to the team's burgeoning Ontario fan base" in order to "bolster the team's long-term viability," according to John Wawrow of the AP. New York State Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who co-chairs the stadium group, said, "We're looking at Niagara County. We're open to looking at a number of venues." Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster "confirmed Niagara County was discussed as an option during the inaugural meeting last week." Dyster said Duffy made it clear "that all options should be on the table." He added that those options include "Niagara County and even Batavia, about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester." Niagara Falls is "30 minutes closer by car than Orchard Park to a growing southern Ontario fan base." The Bills "estimate Canadians make up about" 18% of their season-ticket base. Another idea is "having the Bills relocate" their team HQ to the Univ. at Buffalo campus in the Erie County town of Amherst, where "a new practice facility would be built and shared with the school's football team." New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy favors the proposal "of linking the Bills and the university but is against a stadium site outside of Erie County." He added that a new stadium "with a dome or a retractable roof could be part of a larger development, including a new convention centre" (AP, 4/10).

EMOTIONS RUN HIGH: ESPN.com's Pat McManamon wrote L.A. or London "can call all they want," but Erie County's lease "won't let the Bills move." Still, the angst over the possibility of the team leaving is "something very real, and something people like" Erie County Exec Mark Poloncarz and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown "must fight." Poloncarz said, "If the team left, it would be devastating on the psyche of the community. I don't know if it would have as much economic impact as say a major employer leaving, but on the psyche and the long-term thought of what's going on here it would be huge." He added that the process of getting the Bills a new stadium "has just started, but he's not ready to call Ralph Wilson Stadium a fossil." Poloncarz "points out cities like Kansas City and Green Bay were able to renovate older buildings and modernize them" (ESPN.com, 4/10).

LIVING ON A PRAYER: QMI AGENCY's John Kryk noted musician Jon Bon Jovi "indeed wants to become an NFL owner and is part [of] a Toronto group expected to bid" for the Bills. Bon Jovi's publicist on Thursday "confirmed" he is a player. A source said that Bon Jovi is "the face of a Toronto-based group intent on obtaining an NFL franchise, via relocation, and expected to bid for the Bills." The source added that MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum "remains in league with Bon Jovi." But Kryk noted the financial standing of Bon Jovi's group "bears attention." Forbes.com shows that his "personal net worth" is about $300M. By NFL rules, the "controlling-stake threshold for NFL ownership is 30%" (QMI AGENCY, 4/10). In Buffalo, Tim Graham wrote Bon Jovi's involvement "should make Bills fans nervous about the team relocating to Toronto." Another "disappointing turn for the locals happened in Boston, where Bruins President Cam Neely declared Jeremy Jacobs is uninterested in purchasing the Bills." Neely said that Jacobs "doesn't want to part with the Bruins." NFL bylaws "prohibit an owner from having another sports team in a different NFL market." However, it remains possible for Jacobs "to maintain ownership of the Bruins while his sons buy the Bills." Jacobs is Chair & CEO of Buffalo-based Delaware North Cos. (BUFFALONEWS.com, 4/10).
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