Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

March 22, 2013

Bills' stadium deal gives luxury box to NY state

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —  ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Cuomo administration is getting a 12-seat luxury box at the Buffalo Bills' stadium as part of the $130 million deal to renovate the NFL venue, according to a report published Friday.

The New York Times reported that the suite was negotiated by the state as part of the agreement to keep the Bills in western New York. Citing state documents, the newspaper reported that the suite at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park will be used by public officials to promote New York state and the Buffalo-Niagara region.

Erie County owns the stadium, and since the stadium is publicly owned, using luxury boxes to promote the state is legitimate, according to administration officials.

The team's 10-year, $271 million lease agreement was unanimously approved by the Erie County Legislature on Thursday, three days after NFL owners approved the deal during league meetings in Arizona. State legislators in Albany are expected to give final approval to the deal soon.

The agreement reached in December keeps the Bills in western New York for at least seven years. It calls for the Bills to pay $35 million, the state $54 million and the county $41 million toward renovating the 40-year-old stadium located in a suburb 10 miles south of Buffalo. The deal was reached before the Bills' existing 15-year lease expires at the end of July.

Cuomo administration officials told the Times on Thursday that they would, under some circumstances, require public officials who use the stadium's luxury box to pay the face value of a seat in a suite. The specific details of when officials would be charged and how much they would pay haven't been worked out.

Kenneth Adams, the chief executive of Empire State Development, said the box "will be a great way to show off Buffalo and the region to businesses seeking to relocate to our state."

But former assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a frequent critic of state agencies and authorities, criticized the luxury box arrangement.

"No government agency needs to lease a luxury suite to market upstate New York," he said. "If they need to buy tickets, that's fine, then they buy them on an as-needed basis. The cost of the luxury suite is being paid by the taxpayer, remember that."

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