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Buffalo Bills break ground on new stadium as Gov. Hochul hails unpopular $1.5B project

Gov. Hochul joined NFL and upstate officials at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the new Buffalo Bills stadium, a polarizing taxpayer-funded project that Gov. Hochul declared would benefit New Yorkers “for decades to come.”

Many New Yorkers have gritted their teeth at the gridiron venture, which is expected to cost some $1.5 billion, including $600 million in state funds. Sixty-three percent of New York voters disapproved of the spending deal, compared with 24% in favor, in a Siena survey conducted last spring after the agreement was brokered.

But Hochul said the plan — which appears even more unpopular upstate than downstate — would prove a long-term boon to the Buffalo region, driving economic development.

“I was not going to be the first governor in the State of New York to lose a team: the Buffalo Bills,” Hochul, a Buffalo native and avid Bills fan, said at the celebratory groundbreaking. The Bills are New York’s only NFL team — the New York Giants and Jets play at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

The Bills had threatened to move if New York State did not provide funding for a project to replace the half-century-old Highmark Stadium. The new stadium — set to carry the same name — is going up across the street from the original in Orchard Park, a small village southeast of Buffalo.

Erie County agreed to pay $250 million for the stadium. The Bills and the NFL are to cover the final $690 million.

The project could set a record for public money spent on an NFL stadium, and critics have panned the plan as a raw deal for the state and cringeworthy corporate welfare for the Bills’ billionaire owners, Terry and Kim Pegula.

Economists say that government spending on sports stadiums is generally not a sound investment. Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross, said public money is better used on transportation infrastructure or other projects around a stadium.

He said the Bills project is one of the worst stadium deals he has ever seen for taxpayers.

“This is a huge giveaway from the majority of the population, who is never going to set foot in that stadium,” Matheson said by phone. “It’s hard to understand.”

The new stadium is expected to open in 2026 and hold about 10,000 fewer seats than the current Highmark Stadium, which has a capacity of roughly 72,000.

“The biggest single beneficiary actually isn’t the regular sports fan in Western New York — it’s literally the owner of the Bills, who has seen his franchise value go way up,” Matheson said.

At the groundbreaking, Hochul made a different case about the stadium, which is projected to create 10,000 union jobs and to keep the Bills in the Buffalo area for at least 30 years.

“It’s about workforce development,” Hochul said of the blueprint. “It’s about job training. It’s about anti-violence initiatives. So, this is going to have an impact.”

The Democrat declared that the “psyche of this community rises and falls with the fortunes of the Buffalo Bills.”

“It’s just part of our story,” she said.

Terry Pegula, who is worth an estimated $7 billion and made his fortune in the oil industry, said the new stadium would give his football franchise the chance to make “more memories and continue our legacy.” He also owns the Buffalo Sabres hockey team.

George Conboy, an economist who runs a Rochester investment firm, said he thinks the Pegulas are “wonderful people.” But he said they had outmaneuvered the state.

“We the taxpayers got rolled,” said Conboy, a Bills fan.


Source: Berkshire mont

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