Site icon The Niagara Reporter

Nate McMurray: Politicians, Billionaires Stick it to Taxpayers with Corrupt Bills Stadium Deal

Nate McMurray is a well known local attorney and politician. Formerly Grand Island Supervisor, McMurray oversaw the removal of the Grand Island bridge toll booths, saving countless drivers every day from having to fish for pocket change while ending the idling and stopping that contributed to local air pollution. The Western New York Welcome Center was constructed along the Grand Island thruway during his productive term of office. Additionally, McMurray was the driving force behind the construction of the $2.5 million, 8-mile West River Shoreline Trail, a hiking and biking trail along the Niagara River funded by the Niagara River Greenway. McMurray came within percentage points of being elected to the US Congress in 2018 and 2020, in the deep red then-27th district.

What follows is a transcript (edited for clarity) of a podcast posted to Youtube by Nate McMurray last week revealing what an enormous boondoggle the new Bills stadium is. The podcast is approximately 30 minutes in length and you can view it at the following link:

It’s highly recommended that you view the video in its entirety, as McMurray has included extensive documentation in the form of contemporaneous newspaper headlines, direct quotes and video clips which reinforce the case he is making. By the end of the podcast, you will be both appalled and aghast.


Are you a Buffalo Bills fan? Good. Most people in Western New York are. I certainly am.

I’m proud to support the Bills even though it’s been painful, and talking negatively about the Bills, even in a reasonable fashion, isn’t smart for anybody who wants to be in politics or even adjacent to politics in Western New York. The Bills are sacred. People wear Bills merchandise everywhere. I’ve seen people wear Bills stuff to weddings.

If you go to the local coffee shop half the people in line will have something on related to the Buffalo Bills. So why am I talking about this horrible, horrible, horrible Bills Stadium deal? Because I want people to hate me? Because I’m just some type of contrarian?


Because I want people to know reality, and the reality is we’re being ripped off and lied to it by our politicians.

The Stadium deal represents a long history in Erie County of massive subsidies for giant corporations that give little back to the community, and at the expense of the weakest among us. It is representative of a single political party that feels they are unchecked, and a governor who ignores ethics and massive conflicts of interest for her own personal benefit.

It is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution because we’re giving money to a very powerful entity investing in a largely white, almost 95% white, very affluent community, at the expense of the City of Buffalo where many residents are Black and many residents, frankly, sadly remain isolated and in poverty with little opportunity.

Let’s talk about it. If you get mad at me, I want you to fact check me. If anything I say here is false, come at me. Tell me because I want to know the truth and I’m trying to tell you the truth. So fact check me, okay?

All right. Who are the Bills?

The Bills are an old AFL franchise started by Ralph Wilson in 1959. He founded the team for $25,000. Yeah, not a lot of money, $25,000. That’s it.

And before football was some type of national obsession, he played in, or the team rather, played in the old War Memorial Stadium, affectionately known as “the Rock Pile,” where the Robert Redford movie “The Natural” was filmed…

War Memorial Stadium was a multi-use stadium. It was very old in the 30’s. They played baseball there and concerts, all kinds of things happened there including football, and so this public infrastructure was used for the benefit of the Buffalo Bills as a fledgling franchise. The Bills actually won an AFL championship back then and they were embraced by the community, including the largely Black community where the team played in the east side of Buffalo.

So what happened? Why did the Bills leave there well into the 70’s?

When Ralph Wilson joined the NFL, he wanted to go big and have a great stadium… At the time it was a big project. A multi-million dollar project, actually really cheap by modern standards. It cost $22 million when it opened in 1973. Most of it was publicly funded.
New York State put up $10 million, Erie County put up $7.5 million, and the Bills organization contributed $4.5 million. There were some other plans floated at the time. Some wanted people from the Astrodome to come up and build an Astrodome-type retractable dome stadium, but there was pushback against that. The Republican-dominated County Legislature and County Executive wanted to put the money into a largely white, very affluent community – Orchard Park, that was Republican leaning. And if you don’t believe me, well,
fact check me, that’s what happened.

Another big part of this that people forget to talk about is the white flight phenomenon. It wasn’t just the Bills, the Bisons also
considering getting out of Buffalo but they stayed. They’re still in Buffalo today. But across the country there’s a phenomenon about
white people leaving cities, a direct result of the civil rights movement and the demands for equality in the 1960’s. So the Bills were part of that white flight departure. They wanted to get out of the Black neighborhood because of protests.

The Bills called War Memorial Stadium home, but they said that the deeply segregated East Side made white fans unhappy, and so the other ideas were pushed aside. The stadium was not built in the City of Buffalo, it was built in Orchard Park where it has remained to this day.

Ralph Wilson threatened to move the team to get the stadium built (in Orchard Park). He said, “Hey, I’m going to move it to Seattle, and if you don’t help me out, we’re going to put this thing in Seattle.”

And Ralph Wilson is not from Western New York. He’s from Michigan. Fast forward to 2009. Ralph again wants investment in a new stadium. He starts talking about moving the team to Los Angeles or Toronto and he even starts playing some games up in Toronto (remember that?) and he’s talking about how we have to build our fan base and stretch it, and Buffalo can’t handle the team, and I want some money.

So, then County Executive and current County Executive Mark Polencarz negotiated the deal – $226.8 million dollars for renovations in
the stadium in exchange for an agreement that there will be a committee formed that would not move the team out of the region and they’d plan a new stadium for the future. The County Executive is very proud of this deal. He wrote a book about “saving the Bills” called “Beyond the X’s and O’s” or something. You can still buy it on Amazon. I think it’s a self-published book but he’s very proud of his credentials. You have to understand, if you’re listening to this and you’re not from Western New York, people even put the Bills logo on their political signs or at least the colors. I mean, it is Bill’s Mania here. We’re the only city I think in the country that has one Fortune 500 company, which is a bank, M & T Bank. Other than that we have no Fortune 500 companies. There’s no other NFL city like this, not even Green Bay or New Orleans. Those places have much larger economies than Western New York.

Buffalo is the third poorest city in America, some of the highest poverty rates in America. People hate when I say that but it’s true.
But we have this wealthy suburb, Orchard Park, and a few others and the Bills do make a lot of money here.

Fast forward to 2014. Ralph Wilson passes away. You know, he’s actually done some good things for our community, I’m not going
to lie. He made that Ralph Wilson Foundation that’s invested in our waterways. The man dies and his family sells the team for a reported $1.4 billion to the Pegula family. The Pegula family made their money in natural gas and fracking. That’s a lot of money for a $25,000 investment – the family’s selling it for $1.4 billion dollars a few decades later.

What happens next is the Pegulas say the same thing – we’re going to move the team. We’re going to move the team to Austin. They say want to make it the Austin Bills and at the time Sports Illustrated and other articles you can find online say this is completely greedy, it’s wrong. You know, the team just got almost $230 million, and at the time – this is almost 10 years ago – the politicians
are flat-footed. County Executive Poloncarz is still in power, but this committee they form to meet and plan a new stadium never met more than once.

On that Stadium committee was a Who’s Who of Western New York power. Mayor Byron Brown, also currently still a mayor. We just keep electing the same people decade after decade in Western New York. Mayor Byron Brown says in his opinion the best place to put a new
stadium for the Buffalo Bills is not in the City of Buffalo, nope, His Honor says he wants a stadium deal done sooner and that makes the Orchard Park location the much better option and in his view the longer this lingers on with other cities, with other states wanting professional football teams, it puts our team the Buffalo Bills that are located in our community at risk. And Mayor Brown says this is his opinion and just that, an opinion, because there are no city government representatives at the table while the stadium deal is being hammered out, despite the problems we have.

Mayor Paul Dyster, who I like a lot, from Niagara Falls, is on the committee. Lt. Governor Robert Duffy – he’s out there doing stuff still. Buffalo Niagara Partnership CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen. Empire State Development president Kenneth Adams. They were on the
committee, panel, whatever you want to call it. M & T Bank, mentioned earlier, they had some people on the committee. And from the Bills, they selected U.S senator Charles Schumer, again, in office decades and decades and decades.

They also selected Lou Ciminnelli, who was involved with the Buffalo Billion. From what I hear, not a bad guy, but involved in a lot of strange things.

Bills CFO Jeff Lippman. New Era Cap CEO – you know him. They’ve moved all their operations out of Western New York to China to make a couple more bucks. It used to be called, I think, it was called the Derby Hat Company once upon a time, but New Era Cap now. I don’t think they make any hats here anymore despite the efforts of many politicians to save some hats but anyway he was on the committee.

The panel only met once in 2014. How do we know this? They only met once because Mark Poloncarz told us via Twitter, when he was challenged on it. So you know they didn’t do anything. They didn’t come up with any plans or anything else. So the Pegulas put their own plans together, and said, we’re going to stay but we want you to pay for the whole stadium. A $1.4 billion stadium, covered, and according to our study. And I have the stadium plan right here, their evaluation, and they ranked three different locations. The State University of New York at Buffalo location got a 34. Pretty low score.

They ranked Orchard Park again, and got a 66 – pretty high score, based on their criteria, their own criteria by the way, and the best location was the South Park location in Buffalo which got a 73, ranked highest on tailgating, that they keep saying “well, we don’t want to ruin the tailgating experience, no.”

According to their own study, the City of Buffalo was the best place. So it’s a great plan, right? We can bring the Buffalo Bills back to Buffalo. We got the highest score. Things are great. Let’s build it in Buffalo. Did they do that? Nah.

They said, “Let’s build it in Orchard Park.” So the question is why would they want to stay in Orchard Park when politically the best thing to do (is build in Buffalo). I mean, even the Mayor, Byron Brown, said that their moving out of the city was one of the worst things that ever happened to the city. That’s an exact quote. But you know, he went along with it. Let’s move to Orchard Park, even though this was a terrible thing, having had left the city. Why? Well, the City of Buffalo, again, is one of the poorest places in the whole country. Economically depressed, more segregated. Part of that is due to redlining, the old Federal policy of putting red lines around certain neighborhoods and refusing to give those neighborhoods loans from banks, telling banks they can’t lend to those neighborhoods and otherwise depriving them of equal treatment under the law.

Then Robert Moses, the totally corrupt former… you know, he had a million different positions in New York State history, and he was more powerful than any elected official, created this system of tolls where he collected millions to fund all his little pet projects. Well, he put a thruway right through the heart of the inside of Buffalo, carving it off from the rest of the city so it was not only redlined, it was a physical barrier that carves off the largely almost 80%, or beyond 80% I guess, African-American community of the east side of Buffalo from the rest of Western New York, where the stadium used to be.

He put up through it this thruway. It’s not just a normal thruway – it’s a huge trench. You can’t even get across it safely, you can’t. I mean, it’s crazy. It’s a pit that carves off the east side of Buffalo from the rest of the region.

So you know. they didn’t want to put it there even though these studies said put it in the City of Buffalo where it could benefit
people within Buffalo. They wanted to put it in Orchard Park which, again, is like 99% white, over a hundred thousand dollars a year of average income. Very, very different than the statistics of the City of Buffalo.

And the reason why is, I’m not going to tell you, not because the Pegulas are terrible, racist, horrible people who want to hurt the people of Buffalo. No. But when the mass shooter came here and killed those people on the east side, you know the Bills came out and they tried to show their support, but if they really wanted to show support they should put the stadium back where, according to their own study, it’s a better place than Orchard Park.

I used to work in this industry. I used to work in concessions for stadiums and do this type of work. The key to making money in the stadium is a controlled environment, which means a monopoly. You can’t have competition from somebody anywhere else. If you put a stadium in the city you have overflow to restaurants and bars. If you put a stadium in Orchard Park not only do you sort of redline or whiteline. They used to actually have whitelining in Orchard Park where the lease said you couldn’t rent or sell to a black person, look it up true. So you have redlining in Buffalo, white lining in Orchard Park, but putting it out there you also have that monopoly, that controlled environment where the concessions can make tons of money. There’s no bleed over because the Pegulas control the whole thing and the Jacobs who own and operate Delaware North run concessions for the stadium.

In summary, the Pegulas say we’re going to move it, just like Ralph used to say. We’re gonna move it to Austin unless you give us a ton of money. We’ll build a new stadium. So they work out a deal… the deal is, put it in in Orchard Park where it’s not going to benefit the City of Buffalo, it’s going to benefit just the Pegulas and their controlled environment, huge parking lots, and there’s an ugly old-fashioned stadium the way they used to make them. Put it on the middle of nowhere and cover it with parking lots.

It basically breaks down to about $600 million from the state of New York, about $300 million from Erie County… so a lot of money. Most of the stadium is being funded by the people of New York State and no one seems to care, because of the perception that money gets wasted anyway.

But that’s not true. Our budgets are a determination of our values. The City of Buffalo has lead pipes for children. The City of Buffalo, again, is massively segregated. The City of Buffalo has the worst schools and arguably the worst job market in the country. So we’re going to give all this money to a white community, that’s very wealthy, away from the city, not really connected to the city by subway, actually not connected to the city by subway at all, just a couple bus lines they’re so proud of, like one bus a day goes down there or something. And they’re doing it with all this public money, again subsidizing a very profitable team.

Now you may like that, but not one study has ever said these types of subsidies actually benefit the community. So we’re doing it I guess for emotional reasons because we’re certainly not doing it for finance.

Why are we doing it? Because it’s emotionally important for us to have the Bills? Well, if it’s so emotionally important to have the Bills, why don’t we do it in a way that actually benefits the entire community, not just the Pegulas and the Jacobs, who operate the stadium and are going to have that controlled environment.

But it gets worse, because the money that’s being put in by Pegula is actually mostly from the new scam of a license we need to buy to purchase season tickets, or from the new and increased parking fees. And, again, the Pegulas can still leave. They just have to pay off their prorated share of the investment of New York State.

The value of the stadium investment is going to go down, but they’re still going to have to pay off their prorated share.

Or they just can buy their way out of it later. For a family worth approximately $6 to $10 billion dollars, paying off the billion
dollars… and if they’re going to get $12 or $15 billion from the city of Austin or Los Angeles…

The stadium isn’t even locked in. However, our debt is, because we’re going to be stuck with this white elephant out there in Orchard Park if they just decide to leave. And from reports, the health of the Pegulas is not great, and I’m not trying to make light of it, it’s not great.

So how did this ridiculous plan get passed? This is the worst part. They pass it – force it – basically at midnight. Hochul sneaks it into her budget, right? She sneaks it in. And even Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate leader, says she was shocked, the ally of Hochul, says, I was shocked that this was snuck in, but they have to pass it or else they can’t pass the whole New York State budget.
The entire state shuts down essentially so they pass it.

How does the $300 million happen in Erie County?

Poloncarz is the guy who set up the first deal for $230 million, and promised to have this committee to plan it all out for the future. He says we don’t have time to really talk about this. We’ve got to rush it through or we’re going to lose the Bills, so this is great for Western New York, the best deal in history, of all time, and you know the papers even agree with him even though no one outside of Buffalo region does. They’re saying it’s one of the worst deals ever. It’s a scam. His little cronies around here are like, “Oh, it’s wonderful, isn’t he a hero for saving the Bills!”

Again, he’s been in office forever. Through the time he’s been in office he’s given the Bills over a billion dollars, so his legacy is
essentially a Bills’ Money Giver. That’s what he does. The city’s in disrepair. The region’s in disrepair. We just lost 50 people in a snowstorm. He doesn’t want to talk about that even though a few years ago he’s celebrating himself like Han Solo on Hoth because of his great snow response. But you know, 50 people. That is an historically tragic number. 50 people don’t die in a snow storm unless there’s a super mistake of management. Never in the history of the world, as far as I can see, have that many people died in such a
small area. Just Erie County, and it wasn’t just the City of Buffalo, it was also West Seneca, it was Hamburg… from a snowstorm.
That many people. We were unprepared. So we have all these problems in Western New York, but he’s giving a billion plus dollars to
the Buffalo Bills over the course of his leadership. How did it get approved here? Well, it’s not approved yet, it’s going to be approved next month. The final step. He had three, count them, three meetings in Erie County about this during the height of COVID. This guy was shutting down everything and shutting down gyms, and you know, the whole County was shut down, but during that same time as a peak of the COVID virus, he had three meetings, that’s it, on the stadium deal.

Kept it as quiet as possible. Kept it short. Forced it through, so he can write another book about what a hero he is. And Hochul? When she got the backlash from forcing this into the budget, she froze the accounts of the Seneca Nation casinos, to settle a legal dispute over money. She took $600 million from the Seneca Nation. And they’re actually building this new stadium on native burial grounds. You can’t make this up.

It twists the name of the Buffalo Bills, something that’s a playful reference to the city, into something truly sick. Buffalo Bill, the guy who enslaved native peoples for his show and used stereotypes to defame them. That was deceitful. She took $600 million from the Seneca Nation to pay for the stadium, that’s just a subsidy for the Pegula family that she’s friends with. When I say friends, that’s because her husband William “Billy” Hochul is the general counsel of Delaware North that operates the Bills stadium and advises the Jacobs family.

How do I know this? Well, I know Billy Hochul because I used to work for him. He was my boss when I was at Delaware North doing these same types of deals. He pretends that he doesn’t have a direct interest in this project. It’s insane. His company certainly is a direct competitor with the Seneca Nation casinos. Delaware North operates the Hamburg Casino which is just minutes away from the Orchard Park stadium.

There’s such a direct conflict here. The conflict of interest is unethical. Nobody wants to talk about it. They’re just going to force this thing down our throat.

To summarize, we’re subsidizing friends of powerful, elite people, for the benefit of powerful, elite people at the expense of the least powerful among us. People who actually buy those jerseys with their hard money will wear them. People that go and shovel the stadium like I did as a kid.

People care about the Bills like it’s part of their life, and they know the Bills are so important to them in a place that has so little. They don’t want to lose that, so they go along with it. Absolute robbery.

Exit mobile version