Apr 3


Monday Morning Read

Jim Heaney reviews the news of the week, which is to say a lot of coverage of the Bills stadium deal, much of it critical.

This week’s reposting of the “What I’m Reading” section of my weekly newsletter is topped by a couple of  fresh items that published in newspapers Sunday. You can subscribe to DailyPost here. It’s free and arrives via email at 6 a.m. every Sunday.

I devoted the entire newsletter this week to coverage of the Bills stadium deal, which has generated a lot of attention – and press – across the state and beyond.

For perspective, consider this story from USA Today. The Tennessee Titans are planning a new stadium and the speaker of the state House of Representatives told a radio station in Nashville last week that team owners have offered to put $700 million towards the venue.

The House speaker said Adams family, which owns the team, “investing everything that they have and liquidating almost everything that they have” to raise the $700 million.

I’ll note that’s double the $350 million the Pegulas have pledged for a new stadium here. And while the Adams family is seemingly emptying their wallet – it has an estimated net worth of between $1.1 billion and $1.25 billion – the Pegula’s investment amounts to 6  percent of their net worth of $5.8 billion.

Also noteworthy: the new stadium in Nashville is a stone’s throw from downtown and its entertainment district, and plans envision a portion of sales tax receipts from events funding education and infrastructure in rural areas.

Sounds like a community benefits agreement, which, I’ll add, is not part of the stadium deal here. Our politicians say they’ll get around to bargaining one, but proponents lose most of their leverage if and when the stadium deal is approved by the Erie County and New York legislatures.

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Also culled from press accounts Sunday is a column by Sean Kirst in The Buffalo News. He interviewed Dr. Ryan Miller, a physician at the Jericho Road Community Health Center, who described the stadium deal as “just insane, just devastating.”

The good doctor made a very important point: the decision on where to locate the stadium should have involved a lengthy communitywide discussion. Instead, talks regarding where to locate the stadium were held behind closed doors, limited to the Bills and county and state officials.

The result: a repeat of the mistake made 50 years ago to place the stadium at the outskirts of the metro area.

“It’s just so backwards and so frustrating, and Buffalo has made such progress after so many colossal errors and I see this and I think, ‘When can we get out of our own way?’ ” Miller said.

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Elsewhere, a poll released Friday said New Yorkers were opposed to the deal by a 2 to 1 margin, while a little more than half of WNYers were OK with it. I’d link to the poll, but the results were distributed by a disreputable team of political operatives with motives to make Governor Hochul look bad, so the numbers should be taken with a grain – or two – of salt.

The latest update on what’s going on in Albany comes via City & State New York, reporting that there’s a growing list of opposition to the deal. Fierce opposition at that, to the cost to the public treasury, to the notion of subsidizing a billionaire, to the discredited claims that stadiums produce economic growth.

The New York Post has done a lot of reporting on political ramifications of the deal. It noted that Delaware North, whose senior management team includes Hochul’s husband, stands to benefit from the deal if it retains concession rights in the new stadium.  Also that Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins complained that Hochul blindsided her with the way she handled the timing of the deal. There’s also a Post report that says Andrew Cuomo wanted the stadium downtown. Well, that’s one reason to miss him. The only one.

The Albany Times Union published an editorial that declared the stadium pact a “bad deal for taxpayers.” One of its columnists termed it “a bad deal – and bad policy.”

Empire Center, meanwhile, notes how the requirement to pay prevailing wages on the construction job would drive up costs. Good luck avoiding that: it’s pretty much a fact of life in New York.

At the other end of the spectrum is The News. It editorialized in favor of the deal (no link available) and also Hochul’s move to seize Seneca Nation funds, which left tribal leaders fuming. On Sunday, it denied the existence of the obvious conflict of interest involving the Hochuls.  

The paper’s support of the deal is not at all surprising. The News has staked its future in part on producing a top-flight sports section, featuring wall-to-wall coverage of the Bills, and, to a lesser degree, Sabres and high school sports. Losing the Bills would damage the paper’s strategy.

There’s also the behind-the-scenes role the paper’s publisher played as an adviser to the Pegulas. Speaking of conflicts of interest.

The News did publish a few contrarian perspectives last week, aside from the Kirst column, including an editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis and column by Rod Watson.

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