Sports

Something stinks in Buffalo!


The smell that ate Buffalo.

The smell that ate Buffalo.
Illustration: Shutterstock (Getty Images)

​​The Buffalo Bills want a new stadium, so part of their plan is to sell personal seat licenses.

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Fine, no big deal — right? As Bills exec Ron Raccuia told The Buffalo News, “Every new stadium that’s opened since 2009 has utilized PSLs.” The claim is anodyne enough that it doesn’t need to be fact-checked. The point stands that if an NFL team builds a new stadium, they’re going to use it as an excuse to reach into the pockets of their most loyal customers. It’s perverse, but it’s also standard operating procedure.

The problem is the way that this gets framed, and the folks at The Buffalo News got caught hook, line, and sinker by headlining this development:

“Bills to sell personal seat licenses to help pay for ‘private’ portion of new stadium.”

According to The Buffalo News, the Bills look to sell about 50,000 PSLs — in a stadium that will hold approximately 60,000-plus — starting at $1,000 per and going up from there.

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You can see where this falls apart. You can even see it by reading Jason Wolf’s article, which quotes economist Andrew Zimbalist, who explains, “Basically, PSL money is treated as the owners’ contribution (toward stadium financing), so that if a stadium costs $1 billion and the owner sells $300 million worth of PSLs, and does nothing else, then they would say 30 percent of the stadium is being financed by the owner. But of course the PSLs are being bought by the fans.”

So, the fans pay for the PSLs, and the fans pay the taxes that go into the “public” portion of the stadium spending. Which means that there’s even less being paid by owner Terry Pegula, who at last Google search was worth $5.7 billion. Again, even if that’s not an exact figure, no big deal, the point is he could pay for an entire new Bills stadium himself.

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But since Pegula doesn’t have to pay for a whole new Bllls stadium himself, he’s absolutely not going to. And so long as it’s framed that sports owners are somehow behaving reasonably by demanding public financing for their construction projects, then passing off their “share” of the cost to the public as well, it’s never going to change.

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