By Justin Sondel firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is confident that the Buffalo Bills will remain in Western New York, the region the team has called home for all of its 54 years.
Schumer, D-N.Y., was recently named to the New Stadium Working Group, a panel that is working to identify a location for a new stadium in anticipation of a new owner for the team in the wake of the death of Ralph Wilson, Jr., founder and former owner of the team.
During a visit to Niagara Falls on Monday, Schumer, who was appointed to the panel by the team, told reporters he and his fellow working group members are taking their task very seriously.
“I’m spending a lot of time on the phone talking to my colleagues in the working group,” Schumer said.
Schumer offered no details on progress, but said members are planning to meet as committees before meeting with the entire group again.
“As I have said before, we’re studying now and it would be premature to talk about a specific owner, a specific location (for a new stadium),” Schumer said. “We should look at everything as we will.”
The team was left to a trust as a new owner is sought out, a process that could take years. Several possible suitors have been discussed including an unidentified group led by Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump has also expressed interest publicly.
Kelly has been fielding proposals from business groups in recent weeks who want him to front their operation, though he declined to disclose the members of any of the groups.
The stadium working group has been exploring ideas and a stadium in the city of Buffalo has been the focus of discussions in the past with a development group coming forward with a proposal to put it on the outer harbor.
More recently, Niagara County has made its way into the conversation. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster was appointed to the working group by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has said that all options are still on the table, including the Falls.
The city could make a good location for a stadium for several reasons, particularly its proximity to a large fan base in the Greater Toronto area, Dyster has said.
Dyster said that the process is still in the first stages and speculating on a new owner or stadium location is not productive.
“It’s very early days here,” he said.
The mayor said having Schumer on the panel — an experienced negotiator and one of the highest ranking members of the Senate — gives the process a “prestige” and increases the likelihood of a positive result for Western New York.
“He’s going to be very helpful in getting this done,” Dyster said.
Regardless of who becomes the owner or where a new stadium might be built — or whether it determines further remodeling to the existing Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park is a more financially feasible route — the goal of the working group remains singular.
“There’s only one goal her,” Dyster said. “Keep the team here.”Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257