Luxury Boxes in Buffalo, NY – No, really …

From my old and much admired colleague, Buffalo State University Professor Mike Niman:

People like new things. I get it. That’s what shopping malls are all about. Within this culture, it’s to be expected that the conventional wisdom says we need to replace a 74,000 seat football stadium that cost $22 million to build in 1973, with a sparkly new one that will seat about 74,000 people and cost upwards of $800 million.

The major problem with Ralph Wilson Stadium [home of the Buffalo Bills], why it’s supposedly obsolete, why it needs to be torn down, thrown away and replaced, is that it doesn’t have sufficient luxury boxes. That’s right. Luxury boxes. It all makes sense if you look at current economic indicators that predict that by next year, the richest one percent of the global population will have half of the world’s wealth. And they need luxury boxes, both to keep themselves out of the snow, and away from the rest of the Bill’s fans—whose average income puts them only among the richest 10 percent of the global population. …

Not only do I not want to pay for this stadium with a rent-to-own lien against my future tax bills, but no matter who pays for it, or how they get the money, I don’t want it in downtown Buffalo. …

An NFL football stadium is too large for any of the three proposed downtown sites. Too many people will come, and they won’t come often enough to justify the type of infrastructure, such as a monorail to a new city of parking, or better yet, a working regional public transportation system, that would be needed to make this thing work.

First off, none of the three proposed sites are toxic brownfields located on depopulated wastelands. We have plenty of toxic brownfields and depopulated wastelands that can certainly use some TLC to jumpstart an area revival. Downtown Buffalo, however, is not that place. …

A football stadium and its supporting infrastructure, as proposed, would devour up to 95 acres—entire blocks—of historic Buffalo real estate, landing a massive out-of-scale concrete erection on what were once urban streets. One proposal would wipe out blocks of housing while cutting the Old First Ward off from downtown, boxing it to the east and north with massive parking fields. …

Against all odds, Buffalo has persevered and is now coming back. We have an opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past where we wiped out historic buildings and districts to make parking lots and build massive tombstone-like structures that, once abandoned, just serve to memorialize our stupidity. Downtown is coming back to life as a dynamic urban environment that is alive 365 days per year. Let’s not impede this renaissance by making a massive urban planning blunder.

Entire post here.

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