ERIE — The New York Coalition for Open Government is calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to release the Buffalo Bills stadium study.
Coalition president Paul Wolf held a virtual press conference Tuesday discussing the National Football League team’s stadium project study.
Wolf said the Pegula family, the owners of the Buffalo Bills, conducted the study to determine if the current stadium should be renovated or if a new stadium.
“This is all speculation because the study hasn’t been released,” Wolf said. “But what’s been reported is that the study took a look at several stadium locations, the cost-benefit of renovating versus building new, and that study has been shared with Erie County officials, where the Bills stadium is located, and state officials. And there are currently negotiations going on behind closed doors regarding the feasibility of a new stadium and the cost of a new stadium.”
The public is being kept in the dark as to what the study contains, Wolf said, but the study is the foundation for money that will be sought from the public.
“Our organization is calling on Gov. Hochul,” Wolf said. “She has publicly stated that her administration is going to be a hallmark of transparency, a new era of transparency. In that regard she should release the stadium study that has been completed.”
Hochul’s office did not immediately return multiple calls for comment.
A local reporter in Buffalo filed a foil request for the study with Empire State Development, Wolf said. He said Empire State Development denied the request on the basis that releasing the study would impede an imminent contract.
“It’s my position as an attorney who is very familiar with the freedom for information law, is that, that reason is a misapplication of the law,” Wolf said.
Taxpayers across New York state are the only ones left in the dark regarding the stadium study and financial discussions and yet they are going to be asked to contribute at least $700 million toward the cost of a new stadium, according to a Coalition statement.
“This is an opportunity to Gov. Hochul to show her commitment to transparency,” Wolf said. “There is no legal reason for withholding this stadium study. I would love to hear the justification as to why it should be withheld from the public, as to how that would impair the ability to get a contract.
“If anything, it may be beneficial to the public to get a better deal as far as the amount of tax dollars that are going to be requested.”
The public should also have an opportunity to be heard regarding the situation prior to anyone voting on spending tax dollars on the stadium, Wolf said.