By Kevin Christner:
While there have been recent reports that the Bills and local governments are coming closer to agreeing on a new lease for Ralph Wilson Stadium, they also state the lease will only be in the 8-to-10-year-range. If such a lease was signed, it would do nothing to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York. Whatever multi-billionaire that comes along looking for an NFL Franchise wouldn’t wink at paying $100 million or so to break the lease and move the team to Los Angeles. In fact the NFL or Los Angeles will probably make the payment for the owner.
Mr. Wilson, you are a revered member of the Western New York community. In 1960 you took a huge risk to purchase a franchise in the start-up American Football League when the dominant National Football League had been in existence for close to 40 years. You even bailed out other financially troubled owners in the league’s early years, more than likely saving the league from shutting down. You put your capital at risk and were successful. The AFL worked out, merged with the NFL, and the value of your franchise has multiplied many times over. Your wisdom, foresight and hard work is responsible for much of that success.
But you’ve long refused to make arrangements for the team to stay in Buffalo after your passing. If the team leaves, which now seems likely, you’ll be the only person to blame. And all the great things you’ve done will be meaningless. You won’t be spoken of as a revered founding figure, a man who put others above himself. No, you will be remembered as a man for whom $800 million wasn’t enough. Does your family really need a billion? Will it make a significant difference in their life? Probably not.
But Western New Yorkers will have lost something worth more than money. We have supported the team, and you, for the past 52 years. We’ve bought tickets and merchandise, cheered for the team when it won and still supported it when it lost. Without the support of the community, there would be no Buffalo Bills. The Bills and Western New York go hand in hand. You have a great opportunity. Sign a long-term, unbreakable lease on the stadium. Keep the Bills here permanently.
Many years from now, a father will take his son to the son’s first Bills game. The father will say something close to this: “This stadium is named after Ralph Wilson, the Bills first owner. He gave Western New York a great gift, a professional football team that can compete with America’s other great cities. And before he passed away, he turned down a lot of money from people that would have taken the team away. He ensured that Bills football would be here for generations to come. He was a great man. If you are ever in that position, I hope you will remember the example that Ralph Wilson set. It’s one we all should follow.”