“The public and lawmakers should both be given the information and the time to fully evaluate this,” said Patrick Orecki, a director of state studies at the Citizen Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog.
In recent years, many New York sports teams, from the Yankees to the Mets, have largely paid for their own stadiums, though many venues have been built with public assistance in the form of free land, tax breaks and infrastructure improvements in the surrounding area.
Madison Square Garden in Manhattan has had a property tax exemption since 1982, while the Barclays Center in Brooklyn received $260.3 million in state and city funding, as well as property tax exemptions. The ballparks for the Yankees and the Mets received tax breaks and tax-free bonds, but the teams are paying off the bonds with revenue from their stadiums.
If taxpayers end up responsible for about $1 billion for a new Bills stadium, that would amount to over 70 percent of the estimated construction costs, which is in line with recent stadium deals in smaller markets across the N.F.L., according to an analysis by The Buffalo News. But the size of the subsidy remains on the high end, both in the state and across the nation.
In the last two N.F.L. stadium deals, public funding was less substantial. When the Rams moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016, the owner of the Rams paid entirely for the team’s new stadium in Inglewood, Calif. But when the Raiders moved to Las Vegas from Oakland, Calif., in 2020 for a $2 billion stadium, Clark County in Nevada contributed $750 million in bonds backed by hotel receipts.
While the financing terms for a Bills deal remain unclear, some have argued that a large state subsidy is necessary because Buffalo is one of the smallest markets in the N.F.L., meaning it doesn’t have the collection of big corporate sponsors that pay top dollar for stadium naming rights, luxury boxes and season tickets.