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Bills Fans, Local Leaders Meet To Discuss Team's Future in WNY

11:35 PM, Sep 29, 2012   |    comments
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) meets with the Buffalo Fan Alliance.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Some of the region's biggest power players gathered in downtown Buffalo Friday to discuss new ways to keep the Bills in Western New York for decades to come.

Among the attendees were corporate executives, season ticket holders, and a member of Congress.

Buffalo developer Rocco Termini hosted the group, which is called the Buffalo Fan Alliance.

TERMINI: And there are people here who are willing to do whatever they have to do to try and raise money -- to make sure that that happens.

REPORTER: Are we talking about potential investors and buyers?

TERMINI: Some of them represent banks in Buffalo that might be interested in the naming rights.

By "naming rights" he means a corporate sponsor for Ralph Wilson Stadium, just as First Niagara Bank owns the naming rights for the Sabres arena.

The group also may ask the state to set aside the income tax paid by Bills players and to use it for stadium improvements. The request would be part of an effort to make the Bills more profitable so future owners won't move the team.

"What we're hoping to do is to create something that's a foundation not just for now but for the long term for the Bills to be viable here in Western New York," said Matt Sabuda of the Buffalo Fan Alliance.

But many from the alliance are concerned about the stalled stadium lease negotiations between the Bills, the state, and the county. The team's lease is set to expire next summer, and team executives have complained the state is dragging its feet.

Without being locked into a long-term lease, whoever owns the team would be free to move it. We asked U.S. Representative Brian Higgins about the lease negotiations.

REPORTER: How worried are you that the parties have not been able to agree to a lease extension?

HIGGINS: I'm not worried. There will be a lease. There will be a lease extension, and you'll see capital improvements made to the stadium. That is a given.

The Buffalo Fan Alliance has raised enough money to hire a national law firm that has worked with the NFL in the past. ESPN also sent a print reporter to the event. According to Termini, the reporter was interested in the level of community support for keeping the team in Western New York.

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