Waterfront eyed for Bills stadium
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Nicholas Stracick figures if he builds it, the Buffalo Bills will stay.
Stracick, CEO and president of the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex, unveiled a proposal on Tuesday to build a $1.4 billion waterfront sports and entertainment facility that would include a 70,000-plus-seat, retractable-roofed stadium to one day serve as the Bills' new home.
In making a presentation to a city council committee, Stracick said his plan has the potential to change Buffalo's rust-belt image and preserve the Bills long-term future in western New York.
"Buffalo's been backward the last 50 years. It's gone nowhere," Stracick said. "This stadium is going to change the city of Buffalo."
Stracick's company has already spent about $1 million in hiring a leading sports facility architectural firm, Dallas-based HKS Design, to design a site plan. HKS has designed numerous stadiums, including the Dallas Cowboys' new facility, and the new Yankee Stadium in New York.
The next step is having the city acquire a 400-acre plot of land lining the outer harbor just south of downtown. The land is currently controlled by the region's transportation authority.
Once that's approved, Stracick then intends to approach Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Bills and the NFL.
Stracick's 45-minute-long presentation was tabled by the committee, and it's unclear when it will be discussed at a full council meeting.
Stracick says he's already lined up a group of investors, and projects the complex -- which would also include a hotel, convention center and sports museum -- would be mostly privately funded, with about 30 percent of the cost picked up by taxpayers.
It didn't matter to Stracick that his proposal runs counter to the Bills' immediate plans.
"The Bills will move in once the thing is built," Stracick said. "Don't worry about it. It's done."
Though the franchise's future in Buffalo is uncertain once 94-year-old owner Ralph Wilson dies, team officials have maintained their commitment to staying in Buffalo and continuing to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.
The Bills are in negotiations with state and county officials to renew their lease, which expires in July. There's a potential the parties will have to reach a one-year lease extension after talks stalled this summer.
The biggest obstacle in negotiations is determining how to divide up the costs for $200 million in renovations and upgrades the Bills are seeking to have done to the 39-year-old facility.
"We continue to meet with county and state officials and have had productive sessions," Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, referring to lease talks.
As for the new stadium proposal, Brandon said: "We're aware of it, but have no involvement."
GBSEC vice president George Hasiotis said current lease talks shouldn't affect the proposal, because a new stadium would take five or six years to build. By that time, the Bills would have the option to move into the new facility.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown favors the Bills returning to Buffalo, where they played for the first 13 seasons. But he stressed the first priority is having the team negotiate a new long-term lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Brown has made a formal request to obtain the parcel of land from the transportation authority, but said it's not specifically for a stadium project. He called Stracick's proposal as still being in the early stages of development.
From nearby Derby, N.Y., Stracick is a former major league umpire who enjoyed a considerable windfall in 2002 after he and a business partner successfully sued Walt Disney Co. for stealing their idea for its Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.
A jury awarded Stracick and his partner $240 million, but the two later reached an undisclosed settlement with Disney.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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