Niagara Gazette

February 12, 2014

EDITORIAL: Bills group part of a winning game plan

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and several other members to a new board charged with examining the possibility of building a new stadium in Western New York for the Buffalo Bills.  

We welcome the board’s creation as a sign of the governor’s interest in helping to keep the beloved Bills from leaving the area.

We are encouraged by his decision to name Dyster as a representative from Niagara Falls, an area that has long been rumored to be at least in the running for some type of future stadium plan.

Ralph Wilson remains the Bills owner and has not yet revealed any sort of succession plan. There are no guarantees a local buyer will step forward when the time comes. Certainly, there are no assurances that the Bills will remain part of the Western New York fabric once the team’s current lease with Erie County for Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park expires. 

Planning is paramount here and having the New Stadium Working Group in place shows Cuomo, and his partners in state and local government, are serious about preparing for the future in this case. 

A key point that should not be overlooked is the involvement of the team itself. Wilson has in the past been reluctant to discuss the future of the Bills beyond his ownership. The team’s involvement with the board should open the door for additional discussions that might prove beneficial to answering the question many diehard local fans have wanted to know for years: What happens to the Bills once Wilson no longer owns the team? 

In our view, losing professional football would deal another crippling blow to an already economically challenged community, and by community we mean Western New York, including Niagara County, Erie County and all of eight counties in the region.  

Tough choices will no doubt have to be made on a number of matters surrounding the team, not the least of which being what to do with the rapidly aging Ralph Wilson Stadium and whether it would be wise to invest likely tens of millions of public dollars in a new facility for the organization. 

In the past, local leaders, including some members of our own county’s legislature, have made half-hearted attempts to endorse the idea of keeping the Bills here in a post-Wilson area. Their resolutions, often approved without consultation from either the stadium lease holders in Erie County or the football franchise itself, amounted to little more than political grandstanding. 

Cuomo’s new stadium working group raises the bar when it comes to dialogue surrounding the team’s future. It also represents a welcome opportunity to carefully and thoughtfully develop viable options for maintaining the franchise’s presence in the community. 

We hope the process will result in a big win for all parties involved.