ALBANY — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi is waging a blitz aimed at convincing New Yorkers they will be drenched by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan for an $850 million government grant for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.
Suozzi and other critics of the package agreed to by billionaire Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula argue that the true cost of the state subsidy is intended to exceed $1 billion.
“As New Yorkers face a crime crisis and an affordability crisis, Governor Kathy Hochul has demonstrated that her priority is to give more than $1 billion to her billionaire donor,” said Suozzi, a congressman from Long Island who is competing with Hochul for the Democratic Party nomination. for governor.
Suozzi also drew attention to the fact that the governor’s husband, William Hochul, is now chief counsel for Delaware North, the company that has overseen the existing Bills Stadium concessions at Orchard Park since 1992. Delaware North provides food at 66 concessions at the stadium and operates 19 outlets, including a year-round team store, according to the company.
Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays responded, “Governor Hochul is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards and restoring trust in government. Delaware North is not a party to the negotiations and any future decisions regarding suppliers for the new stadium would be made by the Bills alone.
Hochul joined Delaware North after a 30-year career as a federal prosecutor, culminating in his 2009 appointment by President Barack Obama as U.S. Attorney for Western New York.
The Hochul administration has signaled that the concession contracts for the new stadium will be tendered. Delaware North’s contract at the existing stadium is set to expire soon.
Suozzi said the Pegulas, who made their fortunes in natural gas fracking, should be funding the stadium, not taxpayers.
The stadium grant proposal is expected to be included in budget bills that lawmakers are expected to pass later this week. Lawmakers are expected to vote on a spending plan for the fiscal year starting Friday this week – although there have been signs negotiations could continue over the weekend.
The Hochul administration maintains that the Bills stadium grant is necessary to prevent the team from leaving New York. The state’s share of the subsidy, according to the plan presented by Hochul, would amount to 600 million dollars.
“We need information – a lot more information,” Krueger said. “I think it’s crucial.”
The senator noted that estimates of the true cost to ratepayers for the entire stadium amount to $1.13 billion when maintenance and other costs are factored into the equation.
As for the historical tendency of state officials to keep the details of economic development incentive programs secret, Krueger said, “We really believe that transparency is crucial for the public to know what the deals are before they are concluded”.
She also called for public disclosure of projected profits that would accrue to team owners over the next 30 years.
An Empire State Development Corp official, Kristin Devoe, monitored a Zoom dialogue featuring Krueger, Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens and sports economics experts who took turns raising questions about the stadium agreement.
CNHI asked Devoe to provide his agency’s response to the criticism. “I’ll be back,” she said on Zoom. However, Devoe provided no response.
Among the lawmakers enthusiastically backing the Bills’ stadium deal is R-Niagara Falls Rep. Angelo Morinello.
“A sports team in a community creates jobs and indirect income,” Morinello said. “If the team were denied state assistance and left the area, it would be a setback for the entire community.”
Morinello said he also expects a new stadium to be used as a venue for many other events beyond professional football matches.
Dennis Coates, former president of the North American Association of Sports Economists, said lawmakers needed a full explanation of all the financial underpinnings of the deal before asking them to vote on the package.
Coates said teams that have benefited from such grants often end up collecting revenue from ancillary events such as concerts. “It’s like the state can’t determine who will have a concert or other event inside the stadium. And once that event happens, all revenue actually goes to the Buffalo Bills, not the coffers. of the state despite the state presumably owning the stadium. That’s the kind of detail that’s really important to have before you make a decision.”