By Tim Graham
Sen. Charles Schumer wants to make it more difficult for the next Buffalo Bills owner to move the team and wants the NFL to relax the criteria for its money-matching loan program for stadium upgrades.
Schumer will hold a news conference this afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium to declare his desires about the Bills' future.
The estimate for renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium is reportedly $200 million to $220 million. The Bills and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz previously have said they expected the state to pick up those costs, but the NFL also offers a loan program called G-4. Teams come up with the first $25 million, but then the NFL will match every dollar after that.
Schumer, who discussed today's news conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the phone Tuesday, prefers the G-4 route so taxpayers won't be on the hook.
Listen to Schumer's news conference this afternoon:
But he claimed parts of the G-4 program are too restrictive for the Bills. One element is that all G-4 loans must be paid in full when the team is sold. Schumer wants that clause waived for the Bills.
Schumer also wants to make sure the NFL will enforce the "due on relocation" clause of its G-4 program, making a move less attractive to the next owner.
"I will do everything in my power to keep the Bills right here in Buffalo," Schumer said in a news release. "Because of their unique situation, the bottom line is that the NFL's loan program to upgrade stadiums, as structured, is practically useless for the Bills.
"Making some basic, common-sense changes to this key NFL loan program is something that can generate significant resources for much-needed stadium renovations and could do so in a way that provides significant incentive for any future owner to keep the team in Western New York."
Goodell spoke with reporters before a scheduled seminar at the Chautauqua Institution this morning. While he wouldn't discuss specifics of Schumer's news conference, I did ask him how the G-4 program would pertain to the Bills' situation.
"It's something that we've designed to encourage our teams to participate in the financing for stadium improvements," Goodell said. "We, the league, will match or in some ways contribute funding along those lines because having the best stadiums is important, and it's unique to the NFL. We're the only league that does this, and I think it serves our communities as well as the NFL. It's about keeping all of our 32 teams strong."
I asked how much would he encourage the Bills to pursue G-4 funding.
"I encourage them to negotiate to make sure that their stadium is in the best possible condition," Goodell replied. "We don't make determinations about what needs to get done to the stadium. Based on what they think the project size is and the scope of it and the funding, then the policy fits in."
(Photo: John Hickey/Buffalo News)