Buffalo News: "Advocates want legally binding community benefits agreement in Bills stadium deal"

Date: February 2, 2022
Buffalo News:

By: Sandra Tan| February 2, 2022

If a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills gets built, it's all but a foregone conclusion that the team and its owners will benefit financially.

But a group of community leaders are continuing the drum beat to ensure benefits don't just flow in one direction.

Members of the Partnership for the Public Good, a community think tank with corporate, foundation and grassroots organizational support, on Wednesday said they are demanding that any community benefits agreement be both generous and legally binding, funneling dollar-for-dollar community funding by the Bills for every dollar of public investment made in the stadium.

"We want our county legislators to insist on a robust community benefits agreement that goes beyond the state minimum for minority and women business-owned enterprises, and that goes beyond paying for a few football helmets for a few teams," said Partnership policy fellow Miles Gresham.

Under a separate proposal Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin privately circulated four or five months ago, titled "Invest Well Erie," a community benefits agreement would include:

  • Substantial percentage commitments to hiring minority and women-owned businesses and low-income workers for stadium construction, and for vendor, retail and security contracts.
  • Commitments for public bus transportation to the new stadium, which the current stadium doesn't have.
  • A reserved community suite that gives low-income families the opportunity to enjoy the same same kind of elevated fan experience that wealthy suite holders normally get.
  • The creation of an inclusive, executive sports career internship program and additional support for community youth athletic programs.
  • Investment by the state, the county and the Bills for a low-interest loan program for affordable, mixed-income housing.

Baskin shared her proposal with the key negotiators for the state, the Bills and the County Executive's Office, she said. It was publicly shared by Investigative Post last week.
"That’s what the community is supposed to do," Baskin said. "We’re supposed to speak out and hope that it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. This is an opportunity for everybody to have a win. And we Bills fans, we like to win."

In response to the demands for a community benefit agreement, common in many new stadium deals, Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for Pegula Sports Entertainment, said, "We won’t discuss these negotiations publicly. However, the Pegulas have a long-standing history of providing serious support across Erie County."

To read the article on the Buffalo News website, click here. Photo by Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News.