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Kudos All Around As Bills Hit Goal
Franchise Guaranteed To Stay At Least Five Years.
by Steve Saslow
There was enough accolades to go around during the press conference to announce that Suite and Luxury Box sales past the $11 Million mark to keep the team right where it belongs for at least the next 5 years and in all likelihood the next 15 years.
The Business Backs the Bills committee led by Fleet Bank's Erland Kailbourne opened up the doors for a diligent Bills marketing staff that worked many long hours pounding the pavement and working the phones and fax machines to reach the goal. Bills numbers cruncher Jeff Littman who was never a fan favorite came through with his tireless work to keep the team here. In the end, Littman seemed to built a special bond of his own with the City of Buffalo. Of course, the "12th man" received many accolades and rightfully so. It was the everyday fan that bought many of those club suites and without them, and the passion the city has for its number one asset, this team would be on its way to Houston or Los Angeles.
I may take some flak for this one, but the main person that needs to be thanked for this is the owner himself, Ralph Wilson. It's true that Ralph will be $12.5 Million richer with this deal but that money is needed to keep up with the escalating salaries and bonuses in the NFL. It would have been very easy for Wilson to take a sweetheart deal and back up the moving vans to One Bills Drive and take off for $300 Million to a bigger, more economically viable city desperate for an NFL franchise. The deal Gov. Pataki and Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski worked out with the Bills is worth only about $100 Million. Wilson knew he wouldn't get a pie-in-the-sky deal in Western New York but he was committed to keeping the team there. All he asked for was the bare minimum to allow the Bills to compete at a high level with other teams. Wilson is one of the classiest acts in football, remember he was the only outspoken voice against Art Modell's ridiculous departure from Cleveland. Ralph Wilson was elated when the goal was reached. There is no question he wanted it, if he didn't he never would have signed the agreement last August.
The Politicians are also winners in all of this, especially Gov. Pataki. When he entered the negotiations last spring things came together. They made a deal that will not be a big burden on the taxpayers of New York like in Denver and San Diego where referendums were needed to pay for new stadiums.
The biggest winners are the people of Western New York whether they are a Bills fan or not. Economically, they bring in a tax base of $33 Million to an area that sorely needs it. If they were gone Buffalo would just be another outdated, rustic, old mid-size city. With the Bills, the city remains on the map and chances are they will remain there for at least the next 15 years. If Wilson or his family still owns the team they would be hard pressed to move it out. If someone else buys it, the buyout price get much steeper which may preclude the team for moving. In Five years the NFL will be different and probably with much less relocation of franchises. Fans can now rest easy knowing the Bills are here for a long time to come. Now it's time to forget the future and Sunday's nightmare and look to ride Flutie Magic into the playoffs!
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