By Tony Farina
Multiple published reports indicate the new Bills football stadium under construction in Orchard Park may already be facing cost overruns for as much as $300 million and that’s only after three months.
Initially pegged as a $1.4 billion project in March of 2022, the stadium cost is now reportedly approaching $1.7 billion, and again, that’s only the beginning.
The Athletic has cited unidentified individuals as projecting the stadium’s price tag potentially reaching $1.9 billion with the Bills initially committed to covering $550 million of the construction costs, and that may jump to $850 million before it is over, matching the taxpayer contribution of $850 million. The Bills commitment to cover cost overruns was in exchange for full control of the stadium design and construction.
Wow! Incredible numbers to be sure, but the Bills are paying their share through an NFL loan program and the rest is being raised through the first-time seat licensing fee for season ticket holders. Bills’ owner Terry Pegula has a projected net worth of $6.7 billion, meaning he will be able to handle things with the help of lots of taxpayer and ticket-holder money.
A competing development project in Niagara Falls is the Niagara Digital Campus on the same land the city wants to acquire for its park project from Niagara Falls Redevelopment.
According to NFR, the $1.5 billion technology center “would create hundreds–maybe thousands–of permanent jobs, with annual wages at the low end of $30 million and economic benefits from the new-frontier facility of more than $250 million annually, not counting support and ancillary businesses.”
In short, the data center would be a huge magnet for economic activity, creating jobs and tax money in the process, without squeezing taxpayers to get done.
Considering what is happening with the cost overruns in Orchard Park, can Niagara Falls bank on its park project staying at $150 million before the city even acquires the South End land, if it does, in its very costly legal battle with NFR?
No matter how you look at things, there is really only one choice that makes financial sense for Niagara Falls, and that’s get NFR and its partner, Urbacon, to the negotiating table and see if the project is real and can get started soon.
There is little else to consider on this issue unless stubbornness and empty-headed thinking rules the day from city leaders. Cost overruns aside, there is no billionaire Terry Pegula to bail out Niagara Falls taxpayers if the Centennial Park project falls flat on its face.