Yesterday, a proposal was made before the Buffalo Common Council to propose a new waterfront stadium for the City of Buffalo. This would be a multiuse complex, serving as a convention center, and could be used for a multitude of sporting events and concerts. Its primary feature would be to serve as the long term home for the National Football League Buffalo Bills.
Many in Buffalo met this proposal with both negativity and skepticism. Why move the current stadium? How do we pay for it? How do you move 70,000 people and cars on a waterfront that already lacks roads and access? Buffalo’s past failures with progress makes such a proposal an instant pipe dream. I would like to take a moment to examine how this dream could easily become a reality.
First lets examine cost. One and a half BILLION dollars was the cost estimate thrown out yesterday. Yes, that is BILLION. That is a lot of money, and an extremely high estimate. Let us consider that the new Dallas Cowboys palace in Texas was constructed for $1.15 BILLION, and it is considered the Taj Mahal of football. I truly believe if Buffalo were to truly build a stadium, Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis should be the benchmark. Lucas Oil Field seats around 65,000. It has a retractable roof. It has hosted major sporting events such as the NCAA Final Four and last year’s NFL Super Bowl. It cost $720 Million to build.
My suggestion would be to model a stadium off of Indianapolis’ blueprint. Budget $750 Million for a stadium / Convention Center. This is a much more reasonable figure. As I will touch on later, roads and infrastructure will have to be accounted for also. Assume a budget $250 Million for these upgrades in and around the waterfront. That now places the cost estimate at $1 Billion, instead of $1.5 Billion. Now, where does $1 Billion Dollars come from?
Erie County was already planning on helping the Buffalo Bills with $200 Million in renovations to the existing complex in Orchard Park. New York State, as in Governor Andrew Cuomo, has pledged $1 Billion Dollars for investment in Western New York. Some of that money needs to go to the medical corridor and other parts of WNY, but if the money is available, why not ask for $600 Million towards real Waterfront development and the future of WNY? That is $800 Million already towards the budget of $1 Billion. The NFL gave the Dallas Cowboys a $150 Million loan towards their new palace. That is a loan and money that needs repayment. But why not ask the Buffalo Bills to invest into WNY and the community that has made them what they are today? And the final $50 Million? Private investment, Federal Investment, and the City of Buffalo can be asked to step up to make this dream a reality. A $1 Billion Budget is a real possibility.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz went on the record yesterday in stating the waterfront corridor does not have the proper resources to host such a venue. A four car traffic accident led to major rush hour backups, and showed us just how inadequate Downtown access is from the south towns. My solution, do something about it sir. Congressman Higgins has been pushing for the removal of the Skyway. Congressman, how about securing some Federal “Pork” to make this a reality? We need to create a flow of traffic to and from the waterfront. Here’s my five point plan:
1.) Knock down the Skyway and create a southern tier connection highway. Create Six lanes of traffic from Route 5 to Downtown Buffalo. The Skyway serves a current purpose, allowing barges to come in to industry on the Buffalo River. Relocate these drop zones and allow a traffic pattern that is less costly to maintenance and allows traffic to flow. This would allow connection from the waterfront to the 190, both Northbound to Canadian Bridges and Southbound connecting back into the I-90 corridor.
2.) Add an extra lane to outbound Route 5 in Lackawanna. There are currently three lanes of traffic inbound on Route 5, and two lanes outbound. Adding an additional lane outbound would help not only event traffic, but daily rush hour also. On event days, we could actually make five lanes of traffic to help move traffic by coning off inbound and outbound lanes. Much like what happens on Abbott Road currently.
3.) An additional 190 connector is an option depending on cost. A new road could be constructed following the current rail tracks by the Buffalo River. Without touching Tift Farms wet lands, a new highway could connect further south on the 190, allowing traffic to flow in and out of the waterfront without utilizing Ohio Street to Louisiana.
4.) Extend the Metrorail at least to Lackawanna. Having the Metrorail extended into the Southtowns would finally allow this 1980’s disaster to serve a purpose. Not only for stadium events, a Metro Rail connection would allow parking in Lackawanna for both work and entertainment purposes, and allow people to travel into Downtown Buffalo without worrying about parking. This would also serve to allow more parking lots down throughout Lackawanna on the old Steel Mill sites. Imagine Tailgating outside in these lots, windmills and waterfront in the foreground, and then leaving your coats in the car, catching a climate controlled rail car, and getting off right inside the new stadium or even at the First Niagara Center.
5.) Demolish old Grain Mills and other vacant buildings on the Waterfront. Let’s clean up the entire area and make parking areas, walkways and green space become a reality.
This is not something that will happen overnight. It will require City, County, and State governments to come together. It will require an investment and a commitment from the Buffalo Bills, such as a 30 year lease agreement. But this project would progress Buffalo into the 21st Century. It would allow this city to think big, think outside revenue, think growth and prosperity. I know many of you laughed at those last few sentences, but with a change in attitude we can make a dream like this a reality.