A group of Buffalo Bills fans are starting a donation fund to ensure the Bills never leave.
Over the weekend the online group called Buffalo Fan Alliance announced that it has put together a plan for fans of the Buffalo Bills to donate toward a donation fund that is designed to entice the potential next owner of the Bills, or current owner Ralph Wilson Jr., to keep the team here. They hope to raise somewhere between $100-$170 million that the Bills could use on stadium upgrades, or namely to a new one.
The fans that donate and the ones who put this plan together are idealist, and should be commended for giving it their all to keep the largest piece of fabric that ties Buffalonians together. But is it enough? In a town torn between two professional teams, and a dwindling population is there enough viability to keep the team where it’s always been?
This donation fund is a good start. The recent stadium renovations cost the county and state around $130 million dollars for example. The plan is built off the Green Bay Packers model; a team whose size and viability is similar to Buffalo’s, but it may not be enough. For as many locals and out of towners that would be willing to pledge their donation, the key is the landscape already in Buffalo.
For Buffalo to truly remain viable within the city it’s going to first take a new stadium. Ralph Wilson stadium is now the sixth oldest in the league. Ralph Wilson stadium also pails in comparison to the newer stadiums that San Francisco, Dallas and New York have recently built, which each cost upward to a billion dollars to construct. This fund will be a drop in the bucket compared to what the taxpayers of the city are going to have to pay in order for this to happen.
Also to remember is that back in 2012 a group proposed a new stadium to be built along Lake Erie along the Outer Harbor and that failed to get anywhere past the City, County and State advisory boards desk. I detailed it here. So a fund like this may not even intrigue the politicians to step up to the plate to secure the Bills long-term future.
So if the government officials are not hearing it, which they are probably waiting for a new owner before going desperate, then what other insurance options are there for fans to take solace in? One would be Jamestown native and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell will lead the NFL owners in an approval vote for whoever buys the Bills, and after new Cleveland Browns owner Jim Haslam and his Pilot J scandal, Goodell will assuredly not sign off on whoever has the biggest pockets, but also the cleanest record. What this translates too is he would look for someone to keep the NFL shield clean and image untarnished from scandal, and an original AFL franchise moving would be a big blemish to not only the league but to his image as a native son.
Beyond Goodell, a potential fund and nervous politicians there isn’t much for Bills fans to have faith in. The stadium lease locks the team until 2019 and after then it’s a big question mark that hangs over everyone’s mind. Bills football, though its been down for 14 years, is a right of passage and losing that could affect the town more than when Bethlem Steel closed its doors back in 1982.
I for one hope it works and sparks a debate on how to secure the future of the Bills in Buffalo. But for now the fund is at least a year away from realizing it’s potential. In the meantime here’s hoping that this act signals to any potential new owner that Buffalonians love their Bills and they’ll do whatever they can for their team