During a 2012 meeting at JFK Airport in New York City, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, said state officials indicated they wanted to move in the direction of a new professional football stadium in downtown Buffalo.
"For a 48-hour period or so, New York state was like, ‘we want a new stadium,’" he said. "’We want a new stadium’ and then all of a sudden it ended."
It's one of the previously undiscussed details of the 2012 and 2013 lease negotiations Poloncarz says is part of his new book, “Beyond The X's and O's: Keeping The Bills In Buffalo,” which will officially be released in September. In response, he said the county told the state the team had no interest in spending the money and showed the state an internal study showing there wasn't available land in the city to support the idea.
"We took maps of downtown and superimposed the Ralph Wilson Stadium complex on it and showed how many blocks you'd have to take out to build a new stadium and that also didn't even discuss the issue of infrastructure like having the roads and parking to be available to handle a new stadium," he said.
Poloncarz said the only way to do it would be for the government to exercise eminent domain, which meant seizing private property and owners likely fighting the action in court.
"Eminent domain is a power that governments have but we are usually not going to use it if we can avoid it because eminent domain can be a long and expensive process," he said.
The county executive wouldn't say if the county's position remains the same, as the parties are once again at the negotiating table. However, he said the same obstacles that faced a downtown stadium seven years ago still largely exist today.
"It's not to say it couldn't be done," he said. "Anything's possible but the question is how expensive is it? How long will it take?"
One difference now is the team has new ownership. In response to Poloncarz’s comments, Pegula Sports and Entertainment reiterated it's in the middle of its own study evaluating every potential option.
The state did not immediately return a request for comment, but in 2014 it released its own study as well, identifying several potential downtown sites.