ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – We will never know how things would be different if he were still in charge. But Andrew Cuomo’s team wasn’t comfortable with the amount of money that was requested from the public to help build a new Buffalo Bills stadium when he was in office, a source close to the former governor’s administration told News 4.
New York State, Erie County, and the Bills continue to negotiate details regarding a new facility in Orchard Park. The state and county are expected to contribute nearly $1 billion to help pay for the $1.4 billion stadium, the New York Post reported earlier this month.
If that happens, it would represent about 70% of the total cost. But last August, just prior to when Cuomo left office, the Bills had asked the government to pick up 100% of the total cost, The Buffalo News reported then.
A final deal still hasn’t been announced. Asked Monday during an event in Albany about that $1 billion dollar number, Governor Kathy Hochul said, “I’m not negotiating in public. All will be told at the right time.”
Hochul, who succeeded Cuomo August 24, has consistently said that she anticipates she’ll be able to address state money for the project in the budget. On Friday, she also specified that economic development money could be used as a funding source.
The state budget is due on April 1. The ongoing negotiations over the massive Empire State spending plan in Albany will coincide with the NFL league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. from March 27-30.
Gov. Hochul also suggested Friday that conversations to build a new stadium were stalled when the Cuomo administration was in charge.
“My administration was the one that jumpstarted the conversations,” she said. “They were going nowhere. The Pegula family and the Pegula organization knows that. They know I’m very invested in this.
“My number one objective with respect to the Bills is make sure they stay in Buffalo and to get them a new home.”
A spokesperson for Pegula Sports and Entertainment declined to comment on the Cuomo administration’s concerns about the size of the subsidy.
Cuomo resigned from office last year soon after the New York State Office of the Attorney General released a report which concluded he sexually harassed women. Cuomo maintains he didn’t violate any law or regulation. Recent remarks he has made to religious groups has fueled speculation he may be gearing up to run for office later this year.
“We say make progress. Answer these questions. Deal with these real issues. When you make progress, you will generate hope for people,” the former governor said to the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization in the Bronx last Thursday.
A News 4/The Hill/Emerson College poll conducted earlier this month shows he trails Hochul by fewer than four points, within the margin of error, should he challenge her in a June Democratic primary.
Jack O’Donnell, a veteran Albany lobbyist and consultant, pointed out a number of people on the left of the political spectrum may share the concern of a large public investment in a football stadium, particularly those living in New York City.
“We’re going to hear (from those people) that this money should go to education or childcare,” O’Donnell said. “So aligning with those priorities, that’s politically wise statewide.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.