ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Cuomo administration is getting a 12-seat luxury box at the Buffalo Bills' stadium as part of the $130 million deal to renovate the NFL venue, according to a report published Friday.
The New York Times reported that the suite was negotiated by the state as part of the agreement to keep the Bills in western New York. Citing state documents, the newspaper reported that the suite at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park will be used by public officials to promote New York state and the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Erie County owns the stadium, and since the stadium is publicly owned, using luxury boxes to promote the state is legitimate, according to administration officials.
Senator George Maziarz feels it's inappropriate.
"It was not a part of any of the negotiations or it's not a part of any legislation that I'm aware of and I don't think it's appropriate for taxpayers to have a suite at the Bills stadium," he said.
The team's 10-year, $271 million lease agreement was unanimously approved by the Erie County Legislature on Thursday, three days after NFL owners approved the deal during league meetings in Arizona. State legislators in Albany are expected to give final approval to the deal soon.
The agreement reached in December keeps the Bills in western New York for at least seven years. It calls for the Bills to pay $35 million, the state $54 million and the county $41 million toward renovating the 40-year-old stadium located in a suburb 10 miles south of Buffalo. The deal was reached before the Bills' existing 15-year lease expires at the end of July.
Cuomo administration officials told the Times on Thursday that they would, under some circumstances, require public officials who use the stadium's luxury box to pay the face value of a seat in a suite. The specific details of when officials would be charged and how much they would pay haven't been worked out.
In the Memorandum of Understanding, it reads that "during each lease year, the state shall be given access to that portion of the stadium to be used for purposes of encouraging and fostering economic development, tourism and public awareness for the state and WNY and for other charitable or public functions during events that are scheduled at the stadium."
Kenneth Adams, the chief executive of Empire State Development, said the box "will be a great way to show off Buffalo and the region to businesses seeking to relocate to our state."
Marketing consultant Dan Mecca agrees and says the luxury box, which typically would cost $10,000 to $20,000 a year, could end up paying for itself.
"In an atmosphere that really shows some energy and excitement about the area and there's also quality time that the administration will be able to spend with these prospective business owners," Mecca said. "When you look at economic development, there's going to be a cost of doing business to recruiting or attracting businesses here.
But former assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a frequent critic of state agencies and authorities, criticized the luxury box arrangement.
"No government agency needs to lease a luxury suite to market upstate New York," he said. "If they need to buy tickets, that's fine, then they buy them on an as-needed basis. The cost of the luxury suite is being paid by the taxpayer, remember that."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Buffalo Police have arrested 26-year-old Nicholas Finnegan of South Buffalo and charged him with pushing Russ Ross to his death.
The Niagara County Sheriff's responded to Saunders Settlement Road near Comstock in Cambria Friday night after receiving a tip about a suspected meth lab.
Police say there were 32 burglaries, 20 in Albion, five in Medina, four in Oakfield and three in the City of Lockport.
Firefighters had to withdraw from a smoky fire in Blasdell at a multi-dwelling home on South Park Avenue Friday night because the flames were so intense.
Call 4 Action looked into claims this week that members of BJ's Wholesale Club were paying too much on sales tax on some deeply discounted items.
State Police in Pennsylvania are investigating an alleged pedophile pastor already facing charges in Western New York.