stadiums

Taxpayers To Be Billed a Billion Dollars for Buffalo Bills' New Stadium

If approved by the New York legislature, it would be the biggest public handout in NFL history.

|

The NFL's Buffalo Bills are probably most well-known for losing four consecutive Super Bowls in the early '90s—a remarkable accomplishment ultimately overshadowed by historic failure.

Now, the Bills should once again earn a place in sporting infamy. On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, announced that the team would receive what The New York Times calls the largest taxpayer-funded stadium subsidy in NFL history.

State and local taxpayers will contribute about $850 million toward the estimated $1.4 billion stadium project. Most of the public funds are coming from the state but Erie County, where the Bills' new stadium will be built down the street from their current home, will contribute $250 million of the total. That's a huge contribution from a local government that in 2021 spent a little more than $1.5 billion on its entire budget. The Bills owners, which include multi-billionaire Terry Pegula, are chipping in just $300 million while the NFL will cover the remaining $200 million with a loan to the team, according to the Times.

"It's a great day for western New York and I'm really proud to negotiate such a good deal for the state and our many, many fans," Hochul said, according to the Associated Press.

But if she really thinks this is a good deal, voters in New York may want to worry about Hochul's judgment.

In fact, as Field of Schemes blogger Neil deMause parses in his detailed rundown of the stadium deal, the actual public subsidies probably exceed $1 billion—and that doesn't account for things like interest payments on the borrowing that the state and county will likely have to do to finance the agreement. The fine print of Monday's announcement, deMause notes, puts the public on the hook for $6 million annually for the next 30 years to fund upgrades to the stadium and another $6.6 million for the next 15 years to fund "maintenance and repair." All told, that's an extra $160 million in taxpayer funds pledged to the project beyond the $850 million price tag.

As usual, Hochul and other officials are promising that all this public spending is worth it because the stadium will provide an economic windfall to western New York. "New Yorkers can rest assured that their investment will be recouped by the economic activity the team generates," Hochul said Monday.

That's almost certainly not going to happen.

Just to make ends meet on the roughly $1 billion public costs, the stadium would have to generate about $70 million in new annual tax revenue over the next 30 years, deMause notes, for the same reason that paying off a mortgage over 30 years requires spending more than the sticker price for a house. The Bills and state officials have spent months waving around a study showing that the project will generate $27 million annually for the state and local governments, and Hochul cited that figure during Monday's announcement. But even if you take that study at face value—and you probably shouldn't—generating $27 million annually for 30 years isn't enough for taxpayers to break even on the costs of the project.

Ah, but what about the jobs? Hochul touted the potential for the new stadium to create 10,000 jobs—but since the Bills are already located in Buffalo, any permanent jobs with the team are unlikely to be affected by the construction of a new stadium. So those are almost entirely going to be temporary construction jobs—jobs that will cost the public about $100,000 each.

This is what Hochul is calling a "good deal."

There is at least one entity that agrees with the governor about that: Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the joint venture that owns the Bills. "This is a good investment for everyone," Ron Raccuia, the Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive who led the Bills' side of the negotiations, told the A.P.

But Hochul and the Bills' billionaire team owners might not get such a warm reception from taxpayers or from the state's legislature, which still has to approve the deal. State Rep. Ron Kim (D–Queens) issued a loud rebuke to the agreement via Twitter:

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D–N.Y.), the congressman who recently announced plans to run against Hochul in this year's gubernatorial election, criticized Hochul for "forcing hard-working New Yorkers to fork over their tax dollars to help a billionaire donor get even richer. She'll enjoy the new skybox leaving NYers saddled with higher taxes." And Sochie Nnaemeka, director of New York's Working Families Party, said public dollars should not be "subsidizing an oil billionaire's new stadium."

The real costs of the stadium deal are significant, of course—this would be the biggest public handout in NFL history, after all—but any assessment of the Bills' new stadium deal must also consider the unseen costs. Any public spending is an exercise in priority setting because public resources are not unlimited. The decision to spend $1 billion on a stadium means that same $1 billion can't be used for something else—or left in taxpayers' wallets.

And, quite simply, there are a lot of things western New York probably needs more than an expensive new football stadium. The population of Buffalo is about half what it was when the Bills were founded in 1960. Some of those people are probably fleeing the region's harsh winters, but most of them left to seek better economic opportunities elsewhere. New York's combined state and local tax burden is the highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax policy think tank, making the state a difficult place to work or start a business.

Which means that America's most put-upon taxpayers are now being asked to foot the bill for the Bills' billionaire owners' new stadium. How does that make any sense?

"I'm disheartened, but not surprised, to see NY throwing an incredible amount of taxpayer money at a stadium for a franchise owned by billionaires," says David Ditch, a longtime Bills fan and transportation policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Upstate N.Y. will always struggle to compete with less-frigid locales, but it doesn't stand a chance when both the weather and business conditions are so much better in other states."

Bills fans might have suffered through four straight Super Bowl losses and, in January, one of the most gut-punching playoff defeats in NFL history. Now Hochul wants to hit them in the wallets, too.

NEXT: No, Schools Aren’t Accommodating Students Who Identify as Animals

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. New York voters deserve it.

    1. Good and hard.

      1. I am making easily every month $ 22000 to $ 28000 just by doing simple work from home. This job is online and very easy to do part-time or Full-time even no special experience required for this task. (bjh13) Anyone can now participate in this job and start earning just like me by just following link…..

        >>>>>>>>>> https://brilliantfuture01.blogspot.com/

  2. "Pay up or I move the team to Dollar, Alabama."

    1. I approve that message (on the second read)

      1. lol most people don't get me even on second read

        1. To be fair, I had more coffee, and then it hit me.

          1. I am making easily every month $ 22000 to $ 28000 just by doing simple work from home. This job is online and very easy to do part-time or Full-time even no special experience required for this task. (nhb30) Anyone can now participate in this job and start earning just like me by just following link…..

            >>>>>>>>>> http://CurrentJobs64.Cf

  3. The stadium will be new and improved, but it will still be in Buffalo.

    1. This is the thing that will make frozen shit hole Buffalo into a tourist destination September through December.

    2. It will not be in Buffalo, it will be in Orchard Park.

      Buffalo is a more pleasant place then you have been led to believe, but NYS government does suck.

      1. Did they get their crime under control? It used to be awful there.

  4. So free tickets for NY taxpayers? Didn't think so.

  5. “The NFL's Buffalo Bills are probably most well-known for losing four consecutive Super Bowls in the late 1980s and early '90s”

    Poor Boehm, never seen video of tailgaters doing shots down hot chicks asscracks.

  6. A new stadium. In Buffalo. That will not have a roof.

  7. A complete. grammatically correct sentence composed of one word with varying defnintions:

    Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

    1. the poor Buffalo buffalo.

  8. All I can say is, "SUCKERS!" LOL... SoFi Stadium in Englewood/Los Angeles cost 5 billion to build. It LOOKS it when you walk in there. It was all privately funded...

    So I say again to Buffalo Bills fans AND especially taxpayers whom could care less about the NFL, suckers...

    1. >>privately funded

      by Satan. have you met Stan Kroenke?

      1. Satan? LOL, come on bud... He's a hard-ass BIG MONEY businessman.

  9. "It's a great day for..."

    Bilking your tax base while imploring their "team spirt" and anticipating the hot dog and soda trickle down effect.

  10. One can't expect someone who is only worth 7 billion to pay for the Bills new playpen. As usual, the taxpayer get all the costs, while the owners get all the $$$$. All states should pass laws banning the use of taxpayer funds for these projects that benefit the wealthy. These communities usually end up adding a hotel/airport tax to help pay for these giveaways. But, who vacations in Buffalo?

  11. Hey Boehm, you need to brush up on basic finance. If the NFL is loaning $200 to the team, owned by Pegula, then Pegula will contribute $500 million, not $300 million. It doesn’t mean this isn’t a stupid deal, but you need to get the facts straight.

  12. This kind of shit should be impeachable. There is no stadium deal in history (or really any corporate welfare for that matter) that was a good deal. If they do this, the team will want a new stadium while the old one is being paid off. If you give a mouse a cookie yadda, yadda, yadda... Nuclear War.

  13. The stench of another political campaign...

  14. Pretty funny that Jacobin and Reason cite the same book in their criticism of this rotten deal.

  15. Pegulas have plenty of money, let them pay for it. Anything else is bullshit.

  16. How much of this is actual transfers of cash to the bills (via infrastructure payments or refundable credits) vs tax abatements?

    I never consider tax abatements real subsidies. If i list an apartment for rent at $1000 and it sits vacant and then lower the rent to $800 so someone actually wants to live there, its disingenuous to say i am paying them $200 to rent my apartment. I view tax abatements similarly.

    1. missed the breakdown link first time around. This does look like a pretty shit deal.

      can't say New Yorkers don't deserve it though.

  17. "Taxpayers To Be Billed a Billion Dollars for Buffalo Bills' New Stadium. If approved by the New York legislature, it would be the biggest public handout in NFL history."

    Well, yeah.
    You don't expect multi-millionaire NFL owners to use THEIR money to build a stadium that's only used eight or nine times a year, do you?
    That's what we have legislators for.
    They can steal the money from taxpayers for pork projects so their cronies can save and even make money.
    That's how it works in the US.
    Otherwise millionaires and billionaires might have to act responsibily.
    No one wants that.

  18. Hochul is originally from guess where. Oh yeah Buffalo.

    But not to worry. I've been told that global warming will soon put an end to those cold upstate winters. Plus those dying upstate cities are sure to get their share of the ever increasing border crossers and I've no doubt there are plenty of football fans in that crowd.

  19. I departed New York (NYC) in 1967, never regretting or reconsidering.

  20. But......but..... democracy!

  21. I wonder when the next election year is.

  22. One of the nastiest examples of cronyism I have ever seen. It is flat out evil to tax people for a game of any kind.

  23. Let's see: NFL teams play between 8 and 11 home games per season. Additionally, in a cold weather climate, they may have up to 4 concerts a summer there, and from that they expect to recoup a $1 billion investment from associated economic activity from an average of around 12 events per year. Math is not the left's s strong suit.

  24. HAHAHAHAHAHA

    Steal from your neighbor to build a football stadium for a for-profit business that serves an ever smaller segment of people.

    JuSt VoTe HaRdEr next time, I'm sure the next round of pols are different

    smh

  25. New York’s voters get the government they deserve - and vote for. As for the Bill’s, football is a business and the stadium is its factory. Build your own damn factory. You aren’t sharing your profits with the taxpayers, why should they be on the hook for your liabilities?

  26. Don't be too hard on old Kathy. If she doesn't get re-elected, she'll have to rely on her husband Bill Hochul's income from Delaware North who run the concessions at the current stadium and will likely run them at the new one. Conflict of interest means nothing to politicians. Never did, never will.

  27. Jaipurflowershop provides best assortment of gifts and I am really happy to recommend these Florist in Jaipur. Thanks and Cheers! Source: http://www.jaipurflowershop.com
    - Smriti, Uttar Pradesh

  28. Appropriately the Buffalo Bills are really skinning the taxpayer.

  29. If Reason is this upset about a stadium....Wait until they read about what a SALT tax is for the ultra wealthy in New York. Good bye federal tax dollars.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.