We reported exclusively in the May 6th editions that Paychex founder and former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano was emerging as the strongest potential bidder for the Buffalo Bills when the team is finally put up for sale later this year.
As we reported in our earlier story, sources had confirmed that billionaire Golisano had joined forces with a local businessman and they were very interested in acquiring the Bills and would be among the bidders when the team is put up for sale by the heirs of late owner Ralph Wilson.
That potential partner for Golisano is shopping mall developer Scott Congel (Walden Galleria), as publicly revealed last week, and our sources now say that Congel has been in regular contact with the governor's office on his interest in acquiring the football team and house it in a stadium constructed on property he owns in West Seneca, the former Seneca Mall.
In fact, Congel has hired top Golisano associate and political operative Steve Pigeon as a lobbyist and Pigeon is no stranger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has long been seen as a close political adviser to the governor. Pigeon would not comment for this story.
Golisano, who rescued the Sabres from bankruptcy in 2002, now lives in Florida but sources confirm his interest in keeping the Bills in Western New York, and also confirm he has been in talks with Congel about bidding on the team. For the record, neither Congel nor Golisano will talk publicly about their potential partnership, but Congel has stated publicly that a Bills stadium could be a part of his planned development in West Seneca.
The planned West Seneca site is right off the Thruway, and would be a much easier car trip for Bills' fans no matter where they are coming from, unlike the not-so-car-friendly Orchard Park stadium where traffic jams are a game day fixture.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that a new stadium will be pretty much required if the Bills are to stay in Buffalo, and that's in contrast to the public statements by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz who favors a retrofit of Ralph Wilson Stadium over building a new stadium.
Some observers suggest that politics may be driving Poloncarz' criticism of the potential Golisano-Congel alliance, suggesting his dislike for Pigeon—an obviously key player in the alliance—as the reason behind his "shock" at the 30-year tax breaks Congel may be seeking from the Erie County IDA for his West Seneca development. His 'shock' is a little shocking itself given the ready stamp the IDA normally has for just about any major developer's bid for tax breaks (Uniland, Delaware North, among others).
The governor is on record as saying that if Buffalo needs a new stadium, the state will find a way to get it done. The Congel-Golisano partnership may be able to help deliver that new stadium and keep the team appealing enough to NFL owners to keep it right here. Poloncarz might be smart to take note that unless there is a new stadium, the NFL owners, as suggested by Goodell, may not be inclined to support keeping the team and its old stadium in the league.
The Congel plan goes far beyond a stadium, and would include hotels, apartments, retail space, and much more.
The Golisano-Congel people believe the Bills need to stay right here in Western New York, and the best way to accomplish that is to make sure there is a new stadium built that will be accessible and up to the gold standard of current NFL stadiums. Short of that, the Bills might wind up playing football someplace else, and that would be a hard pill for the thousands of fans in Western New York who would not want to lose their football team to Toronto or to some other city.
|Tom Golisano and Steve Pigeon