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Communities play an expensive game in building NFL stadiums

An empty Highmark Stadium
Buffalo Bills
Built in 1973, Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park is among the oldest in the NFL.

The Buffalo News sparked a wildfire of public debate when it reported early negotiations were underway for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. Sources said the team was looking for the public to finance the construction of a $1.1 billion facility in Orchard Park.

For many, it was sticker shock, but the price tag seems to reflect current trends. That's the view of Ben Fischer, of Sport Business Journal. Construction of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles cost a reported $5.5 billion. As Fischer notes, while the price is inflated by the high cost of real estate in crowded Southern California, modern stadium amenities are costly and are demanded by NFL owners.

Fischer also provided perspective on the possibility the Bills would relocate if their stadium demands are not met. For years, NFL owners had the options of Los Angeles and Las Vegas where they could relocate their teams. Those markets have been filled in recent years.

According to Fischer, the largest media markets without an NFL team are Austin, Orlando, Sacramento, St. Louis and Portland.

"What is much less clear to me is whether the elected officials and political masters in those regions are particularly eager to bring a team," Fischer said in a conversation with WBFO.

"I think public financing for stadiums is tough everywhere. It upsets people from both the Right and the Left."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.