Monday, May 12, 2014

People of Buffalo, hold on to your wallets

Buffalo Sportz Corridor

It seems someone has a bright idea for waterfront redevelopment in the city of Buffalo, N.Y.:
Another proposal was released on Monday that would include a new stadium for the Bills and a new sports complex. The Buffalo Sportz Corridor has a project that would also include a complex for amateur sports as well as a new Convention Center.
You don't say? Details, please:
The idea for what they are calling Olympia Sports Park envisions an enormous complex featuring facilities to accommodate a full range of activities, from hockey, football and baseball to golf, archery, tennis, mixed martial arts and even beach volleyball. Other areas would be designed for boating, fishing, indoor track, lacrosse, soccer and swimming. There would also be walking and bike paths ringing the area.
The ultimate concept even includes a new domed stadium for the Buffalo Bills, as well as a convention center, south of the Small Boat Harbor, plus a sports outlet mall, a Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and several restaurants. And it envisions an extension of the Metro Rail line or an elevated tram from Canalside straight through the Outer Harbor to the new Bills stadium.
Any chance this is being pitched with pie-in-the-sky assertions of transformative economic impact?
The goal, they say, is to turn the area into an economic development engine that would create thousands of jobs, draw hordes of visitors and tap into the $9 billion world of amateur sports tourism. And that would capitalize on the momentum Buffalo is already experiencing.
“Buffalo is starting to catch on right now,” said Jefferson Burke Jr., president and CEO of Burke Sportz[.]
Well, that sounds convincing! And since this sure-to-be-a-hit project is being built in America, where entrepreneurs invariably haul themselves up by their own bootstraps, I trust this project will have purely private backing, and will stand or fall on its economic merits?

Ha ha! Silly me:
“This funding would be a combination of private enterprise and we would be involving different types of municipalities using bond funding, so some of the money that the state of New York has designated would be used.”
Translation: If this thing is built, government money will do the heavy lifting, the private parties will make out like bandits, the project will run enormous deficits, and the taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

They even included an elevated tram. Jeebus.

You know the phrase, "take something with a grain of salt"? There's not a salt mine in the world large enough to season this proposal. Every single element is a sure money loser. Convention centers lose money. Stadiums lose money. Malls are dying. And while I'm sure Buffalo is a nice place to visit, and convenient to Niagara Falls, may I nevertheless suggest that perhaps pitching it to tourists as a beach volleyball destination is a bit of a long shot?

In a just world, local officials would tell the developers of this cockamamie proposal, "You think this will work? Fine. You pay for it." We do not live in a just world. Good luck, Buffalo!

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