WKBW: "716 Play Fair Coalition asking for significant reinvestment, transparency, in Bills stadium CBA negotiations"

Date: October 21, 2022

October 19, 2022

Members of the 716 Play Fair Coalition gathered on Wednesday at Johnny B. Wiley Stadium, the original home of the Buffalo Bills, to call for significant community reinvestment as part of the $1.4 Billion stadium deal for the hometown team.

"You can't have a community benefits agreement, without the community," said John Washington from the Wakanda Alliance.

"We are here for one simple thing," said Jillian Hanesworth, a community organizer and activist, "We want a community benefits agreement that is making solid investments in our community."

When finalized, the Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, will lay out how the new stadium will not only benefit the Buffalo Bills, but all segments of the community, including historically underserved communities within Erie County.

The tentative stadium agreement includes $850 Million of public money to go towards construction of the new home of the Bills. The 716 Play Fair Coalition is asking for a return on that public investment.

"If you say you are going to stand with us, then be with us," said Dennice Barr, President of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council. "Put this money were it is supposed to be, into the communities left behind".

More than 80 community groups have signed a letter to Pegula Sports and Entertainment and Erie County leadership asking for a fair CBA.

The 716 Play Fair Coalition is asking for

  • An equitable public transportation plan that includes free workforce shuttles and a public transit port inside the new stadium complex
  • A focus on underserved communities in construction of the stadium and future employment
  • An annual community governance RFP process and public hearings
    $500 million over the 30-year new stadium lease to go into annual grants for affordable housing, health equity, youth mentoring and student athletics

"We have the opportunity to bring the Buffalo Bills and bring the NFL into partnership as good neighbors for our entire community at large," said Randy Hoak, Town of Hamburg Supervisor.

The 716 Play Fair Coalition is also asking for more transparency in what the group believes have been closed negotiations.

"We have said for almost a year now that you cannot have a community benefits agreement without community members at the table," said Andrea Ó Súilleabháin from the Partnership for the Public Good. "A lot of the other processes that we have looked at had very large community coalitions involved in the process working with the corporate owners and negotiators on what they wanted to see invested in. That hasn't happened here."

"Them being behind closed doors thinking of what crumbs they want to offer people, is not a negotiation. It already says this is not going in the right direction", added Washington.

The deadline for negotiations on the Community Benefits Agreement have already been extended twice between the Buffalo Bills, Erie County and the State of New York. The deadline was most recently extended by 45 days into December.

When reached for comment on Wednesday a spokesperson for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released the following statement.

"Erie County continues to engage in negotiations with the Buffalo Bills and New York State on all documents and required items related to the construction of a new stadium in Orchard Park. As is the case in all situations involving the investment of public monies, the comments and concerns of the public are taken into consideration during our deliberations. Progress is being made on all fronts and when final agreements are reached we will release them to the public for its review."

Ron Raccuia, the Executive Vice President for Pegula Sports and Entertainment told 7 News Anchor Jeff Russo on Wednesday "We continue to negotiate all aspects of the stadium agreement in a constructive manner."

Read the full article and watch the video on WKWB's website, here.