An agreement was announced in a "hastily called news conference"
to keep the Bills in Buffalo (actually Orchard Park) through at least 2020. But the real story is in the details: the Bills have been allowed to pick up just 16 percent of the costs to keep them in town. If you've ever had the slightest curiosity as to how sweetheart a deal an NFL team can possibly get, the full agreement can be read below.
It's going to cost $271 million for upgrades to Ralph Wilson Stadium and 10 years of running the place on gameday. The Bills will pay just $44 million of that. Erie County will cover $103 million, while the state of New York is on the hook for $123 million.
If that turns out to be not cushy enough, the Bills can buy their way out of the lease after year seven. We and others have railed against the outrage of public financing for stadiums
for years, but it's still shocking to see in 2012 a textbook case of a community held for ransom, forced to give in to every last demand of a franchise threatening to move.
Less than a year after the owners of the Rogers Centre and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced their hopes of moving an NFL franchise to Toronto, Bills owner Ralph Wilson petitioned the league to let his team be the guinea pig. Since 2008 the Bills have played one game a year in Toronto, to high-priced tickets and high attendance. Wilson has been circumspect when asked about moving the team, and the 94-year-old, in poor health, has reportedly advised his children to sell the Bills when he dies. The very public flirtation with Toronto (and the omnipresent threat of Los Angeles) has had one goal: to wring every last cent out of fearful New Yorkers.
It's worked. The Bills are getting a full renovation, mostly on the taxpayers tab. For example:
• The team store will be moved to the stadium's west end plaza, at a total cost of $2.6 million. The Bills will pay just $720,000 of that.
• They're going to wire the bathrooms so you can hear live game sound while you piss. It'll cost $600,000, but the Bills are only on the hook for $164,000.
• The sideline club seats will now be heated, for $970,000. The Bills only have to cover $264,000 of that.
The Bills, who own virtually nothing in their own stadium, will pay just $800,000 a year in rent.