How could a Bills stadium be financed? Other deals hold clues

March 27, 2022 – Media Mention
The Buffalo News

Dan Etna, co-chair of Herrick's Sports Law Group, spoke to The Buffalo News about the upcoming Buffalo Bills stadium project in Orchard Park, NY, pending a vote from NFL owners. New York State and Erie County are likely to pay for most of the proposed $1.4 billion open-air stadium. The article notes that more details are expected to be revealed about how the state and Erie County will come up with funds to pay for the project, noting that "past stadium deals leave clues for what might have been on the table during negotiations over a new home for the Buffalo Bills." 

Dan said, "I think the days of granting somebody an outright award of money to go build a stadium are gone. But there are still many ways that local and county governments and state governments can help[.]" The article referenced how Dan has previously been involved in stadium deals.

The article explained how Buffalo is a relatively small market, which gives the city less leverage in negotiations. Dan explained, "These government packages aren’t one size fits all... It’s a facts and circumstances thing."

The article outlined possibilities for how the project could proceed, including tax-exempt municipal bonds, which direct tax revenue to go towards construction costs. The article stated that Dan said, "There are other ways governments can assist in a stadium project without direct subsidies[.]" 

The article discussed Yankee Stadium, stating that: "According to a report from Brookings Institute, the $2.5 billion Yankee Stadium, completed in 2009, was financed using $1.7 billion in municipal bonds issued by the City of New York. The think tank estimated that the federal government subsidized $431 million of the project through the loss of tax revenue."

Dan reflected, "They were satisfying the debt service on publicly issued bonds by a governmental entity that had the tax-exempt rate, rather than the taxable rate[.]" He also cited how Nevada gave the Raiders $700 million in debt financing under a few conditions. Dan commented on these conditions, saying, "One was that the Raiders allow the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to use their new stadium. The agreement required the Raiders putting in a turf field so that games could be played on consecutive days, if need be, since the university plays most of its games on Saturdays. The Raiders originally wanted a grass field but changed course because of this agreement[.]"

Dan noted that big stadium lenders can also get involved, citing past stadium projects. 

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