Buffalo News: "Another Voice: Pegulas should play fair and reinvest in WNY community needs"

Date: October 11, 2022

By: Andrea Ó Súilleabháin and Brenda McDuffie | October 11, 2022


Pegula Sports & Entertainment, the corporate owner of the Buffalo Bills, is currently at the negotiating table with Erie County and New York State. Any day now, they will finalize the deal to construct a new stadium in Orchard Park.

Over $1 billion in county and state funds will go to the new stadium – $850 million in up front construction costs and $280 million toward maintenance, repairs and improvements over its first 30 years. 

The negotiations have not been transparent, and little information has been released to the public. But what we do know is important: the Buffalo Bills stadium deal is the largest handout of public dollars in the history of American sports.

In stadium and arena deals around the country, corporate team owners have committed to major community benefits. When these for-profit corporations get public money, communities deserve a return on our investment.

The Pegulas should play fair and reinvest our public dollars in Buffalo and Erie County, by committing to $500 million in community benefits over the first 30 years of the new stadium.
 In 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins arena received $250 million in public subsidies, and the owners committed to funding a new locally owned grocery store, constructing a community center and local hiring with living wages at the arena.

In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons owners received $200 million in public subsidies toward a $1.5 billion stadium project, and the owners committed to $40 million for parks and a job training center, among other programs.

In 2020, the City of Los Angeles approved the Clippers’ $1.3 billion arena project, and the owners committed to $100 million in community benefits. This project did not receive any public subsidies, only public planning approval. Community reinvestment included $3 million in emergency support for residents impacted by Covid-19, $6 million for the public library and to create a community center, $8.5 million for college scholarships and tutoring, and $250,000 to advance housing-focused nonprofits. 

In these and other deals, corporate owners around the country understand that for their team to thrive, the community and region around it must also thrive. The Buffalo Bills play in a region still grappling with concentrated and racialized poverty. Many lifelong, loyal Buffalo Bills fans face major disparities in health, education, and accessing safe and quality housing. 

The Pegulas should recognize this, play fair and reinvest our public dollars in true community needs.

As the Play Fair campaign is calling for, they can create a community investment fund, improve public transit for access to game day jobs and entertainment, invest in youth sports and recreation, invest in health equity, and create a Community Reinvestment Oversight Committee to make sure the distribution of community benefits is far more inclusive and transparent than the deal-making process has been.

This return on public investment has become the norm in stadium deals around the country, and Buffalo and Erie County deserve the same.

Read the full op-ed on the Buffalo News website, here