Bills Stadium Downtown?
As much as I fully appreciate Bruce Fisher’s smart and thoughtful columns, I think he is wrong about putting the Bills’ stadium downtown (“The Downtown Stadium,” Artvoice v13n19). If you think about the fact that the stadium uses a huge amount of real estate that lays empty 95 percent of the time, it does not really generate the activity and commerce that Fisher envisions. In fact, it takes away from the center of the city where there could be activity and a people friendly environment year round. The idea of making it more central and accessible to our Canadian friends is sensible. But the closest it should be is on the fringe of the downtown area.
- David Myrow, Amherst
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It appears this article, like many others, was constructed from a premise to support an opinion that Western New York needs to re-build the city of Buffalo and major public spending should be focused on that idea. The author portrays some opinions as facts and appears to know little about sports or football fans.
In one paragraph he states that Buffalo is a pro sports town and will never be Madison or Columbus, so a new dual use stadium for the Bills and UB Bulls on the Amherst campus is not feasible in a town like Buffalo (implying we are too small, poor, or not big football fans). “Pro sports suck the air out of college ball. Here, It’s one or the other.” Then he compares Buffalo to Pittsburgh and their clustering of sports stadiums downtown. I guess Pittsburgh with the Steelers is not a pro football town either! Yet somehow they have this little university called Pitt that plays NCAA football and basketball in the ACC and its home games in Heinz Field, home of the Steelers. I along with tens of thousands of other fans from all over the country trekked to Pittsburgh last year to see Pitt play Notre Dame on a Saturday, then stayed to see the Bills-Steelers on Sunday—in the same stadium.
“With a killer of a home schedule last season, Pitt’s football team had a strong year in terms of ticket sales with a virtual season sellout. Home games against Florida State, Miami, and Notre Dame…The Panthers average home attendance at Heinz Field in 2013 was 49,741.”
So the NFL Steelers regularly sell 60,000+ tickets and Pitt sells close to 50,000 in an old Rust Belt city, but in Buffalo with UB that could never happen?
The author argues for spending $1 billion to get 500,000 football fans to drive to the city of Buffalo instead of Orchard Park. He says changing the location to the city is what gives us the most value, because it helps the revitalize downtown Buffalo. But in reality just changes the place where 65,000 people park, eat and drink 10 times a year, so has no added value to Western New York as a whole. People are not going to visit this area more frequently or spend more money in Western New York based on where the Bills stadium is located. We need politicians and leaders who think bigger and see this opportunity to leverage that $1 billion so it has the most economic impact for Western New York moving forward.
To me the far better choice is a 65,000-seat retractable roof stadium on the vacant land next to the current UB Bulls stadium. Weather would no longer be an issue for selling Bills tickets every December, it is closer to Rochester and Toronto, gives UB a great recruiting tool for coaches and players, plus it gives the NFTA and state another reason to extend the Metro rail to the Amherst campus. The current UB football stadium could become an NCAA Division I hockey arena, by soliciting some generous donors similar to the $102 million donation Terry Pegula made to his alma mater, Penn State.
Building top-tier NCAA Division I athletic programs in football, basketball, and hockey would have a dramatic impact on UB and Western New York for decades regardless of what happens with the Bills. Sports are a big part of the atmosphere, camaraderie, alumni loyalty, donations, and long-term success of most major colleges and universities, but have been sorely lacking at UB and SUNY in general for decades. Bills fans don’t care where the stadium is located in Western New York, but the chance to transform UB into a major player at the NCAA Division I level and make big-time college sports part of the UB college experience has tremendous value. In 10 or 15 years we may see teams like Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan, Boston College, Penn State, North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, or Miami playing college football, basketball and hockey in Western New York!
This will be a calculated investment we need to keep the Bills viable in Buffalo, but also the best chance we have to give SUNY Buffalo the tools to compete athletically with the biggest schools in the nation. Buffalo is not a college sports town because the college sports we have in Western New York do not compete at the highest levels with the best athletes, not because we are too small or only like pro sports. We can simply resign UB to second-rate status that will never compete with the major universities from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, or take steps to change that and build UB into a school that sends teams to bowl games, March Madness, and the Frozen Four on a regular basis.
- Aaron Walker, Snyder
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