Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $850 million handover for a new Buffalo Bills stadium has puzzled pundits who say a recent high-profile legal case involving the Los Angeles Rams sets a strong precedent that could allow New York to file a lawsuit get a better deal.
This week Gov. Hochul announced the stunning taxpayer sweetener that will account for the most public money ever spent on building a US stadium. The New York State Assembly will consider approving the state’s $600 million as part of the 2022 budget over the next few weeks. Erie County is providing the other $250 million.
Meanwhile, insiders point out that New York is picking up the massive bill, even though the city of St. Louis settled a $790 million settlement in November in a lawsuit against NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke for the move of the franchise to Los Angeles without first conducting “good faith” negotiations to remain in place.
A year after the NFL granted Kroenke the right to relocate the Rams to Los Angeles, officials from St. Louis, St. Louis County and the government agency that owns the stadium sued the NFL and Kroenke, citing the league’s relocation guidelines , which are said to require teams. to work conscientiously and in good faith to procure and maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home areas.”
Cities like Oakland, California have sued the NFL in the past for moving teams over antitrust issues, but not because of the NFL’s own relocation policy.
The windfall for St. Louis — which sued for $1 billion in 2017 and whose case was due to go to trial in January — has sparked intense debate over whether Kroenke should foot the entire bill himself or other NFL team owners also should do bangs on. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has set up an ad hoc committee of owners to sort it out.
Whoever ends up paying, it’s clear the NFL wouldn’t be thrilled with another such case, notes Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan who has done extensive research into public funding of athletic facilities.
“That settlement told me the NFL didn’t want to go to court,” Rosentraub said. “It’s evidence that if Buffalo made a real proposal, it would be difficult for the Bills to move because we know you can challenge the NFL. It’s not a hypothesis.”
NFL teams in particular – including the Buffalo Bills – face the uncomfortable fact that local governments grant them virtual monopolies in their respective markets. Conversely, it can become complicated for a franchise to move to another market, Rosentraub said.
“We disagree with this flawed legal analysis and the conclusion that Buffalo should be more like St. Louis — a city without a football team,” a spokesman for Gov. Hochul said in a statement to The Post.
Privately, sources close to the situation say Hochul’s team never spoke to the St. Louis legal department to inform their negotiations with Terry Pegula, the Bills’ billionaire owner. Hochul’s team claimed it was aware of the Kroenke case but believed it was a different situation because Kroenke allegedly misrepresented his intentions to St. Louis, according to the sources.
Nonetheless, Gov. Hochul’s generosity to the bills has stunned bystanders, including Michael Agguire, a California-based attorney who on Jan. 25 sued the NFL and Los Angeles Chargers in San Diego Superior Court for charging the 2017 team from San Diego moved to LA.
“It’s kind of surprising that Gov. Hochul hasn’t reached out to St. Louis attorneys and discussed their options,” Agguire told the Post. “The St. Louis result basically means cities now have a Magna Carta protecting them from improper demands from the NFL monopoly. St. Louis has opened up a whole new corridor of cases.”
On the suggestion that the Bills would find it difficult to move, a spokesman for Pegula Sports Entertainment told The Post: “Moving would have been a very real possibility if the governor hadn’t worked so hard to get everyone around the table bring.”
The governor’s spokesman added that “the Buffalo Bills franchise is a proven economic engine for the Buffalo area and the state,” noting that it collects $27 million annually in direct income, sales and use taxes for the New York State, Erie County and Buffalo generated.
The Office of the Governor predicts that these revenues will total $1.6 billion over a 30-year lease and bring more than $385 million to the Buffalo area each year.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/31/kathy-hochul-needlessly-handing-850m-to-buffalo-bills-legal-experts-say/ Legal experts say Kathy Hochul is unnecessarily handing over $850 million to Buffalo Bills