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Poloncarz: Downtown stadium debate is pointless, even following weekend gridlock

WBFO file photo

If last weekend's large crowds and traffic gridlock in downtown Buffalo have some questioning whether it fuels an argument against a proposed downtown football stadium, the Erie County Executive has this suggestion: don't bother, because there's no stadium discussion even happening.

Last weekend, tens of thousands gathered in downtown Buffalo for numerous events which happened at once, including a Buffalo Bisons baseball game, Kanye West concert and the temporary appearance of the "World's Largest Duck." It created traffic snarls, testing the patience of many downtown visitors.


Local elected officials say they're exploring options to prevent such gridlock from happening again. But with a push earlier this year from National Football League officials for a new Buffalo Bills stadium, some may raise the question whether last weekend's congestion might prove the idea for a downtown stadium to be a bad one.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has been a leader in keeping the Bills in their current Orchard Park stadium. But when asked the question Tuesday about whether downtown gridlock supports his case, Poloncarz suggested there's no point in even debating it. 

The reason? According to Poloncarz, there's no stadium talk at all.

"The only people talking about downtown are the media," Poloncarz said. "The conversations we're having with the Bills are not about building a new stadium. There haven't been."

The Bills committed $35 million to an overall $130 million renovation at what was recently renamed New Era Field. Erie County committed $41 million while New York State kicked in $54 million. Poloncarz says if Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula were seriously interested in moving out for a new venue, they would not have spent so many dollars on stadium improvements. 

As recently as June, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell renewed his recommendation for a new Bills stadium, saying it was in the best interest of both the club and the NFL as a whole. Calls for a new stadium by NFL owners earlier this year led Poloncarz to challenge the league to provide documents proving that a new stadium was economically necessary.

The Bills, at the NFL owner meeting in March, stated the team is in no hurry to leave its current home. 

"Will that stadium be there forever? Of course not," Poloncarz said Tuesday. "Eventually the field, the stadium facility, will have to be replaced. But right now the bones are really good, The Bills like it. The county likes it. The state likes it. I think for now we're goinge  to be enjoying lots of games in Orchard Park for many years to come."

The Bills' current lease at New Era Field runs through 2022. New Era, the Buffalo-headquartered cap manufacturer, recently committed to a seven-year naming rights agreement that took effect in mid-August.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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