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Our View: Bills deal makes sense for fans, economy

2012-12-24T03:30:00Z Our View: Bills deal makes sense for fans, economyThe Citizen Editorial Board Auburn Citizen
December 24, 2012 3:30 am  • 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered some good news for Buffalo and much of upstate New York on Friday with the announcement of an agreement to keep the Buffalo Bills in western New York most likely for at least seven more years.

The Bills have been a crucial component of the western New York economy for decades, and that impact has seeped eastward into central New York, where it's easy to find Bills fans buying merchandise, loading up cars, vans and buses for trips to home games and filling up various local establishments to watch televised games.

But the reality of the recent past is that the Bills have been primed for a relocation to a bigger market with better facilities, unless the team, league, western New York and state officials could reach a deal for some needed stadium improvements.

Cuomo recognized this challenge months ago when he hired a sports franchise management expert to help put together a plan for the future.

For as good as the news of the Bills staying is, it does not come cheaply. The $130 million stadium renovation plan has the Bills providing $35 million and the state and Erie County covering the other $95 million.

That's a major investment in a private enterprise, so we were glad to see the deal include a $400 million payment penalty to the government entities should the Bills leave, with the exception of a $28 million penalty carved out after the seventh year of the 10-year pact.

That seventh year is certainly a concern for all parties, but that should be plenty of time for the franchise to improve its financial operations. And don't forget that the relocation penalty under the current stadium lease deal is just $2 million, so the government has actually gained more security.

Given the investment taxpayers will be making in this operation, there's one more item that the Bills need to fix. It's time for the team to drop its recent practice of playing some "home" games in Toronto. Such games have not sold well to begin with, and taking the team away from the fans that have supported them and the governments that are subsidizing them is not good policy.

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