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Tax specialist and journalist calls Bills' stadium deal a loser for taxpayers

Silhouette of Buffalo Bills fans in foreground. Logo on the big screen.
Silhouette of Buffalo Bills fans in foreground.

According to documents released Wednesday, the public cost for the Buffalo Bills' new stadium will exceed $1.1 billion once long-term capital and maintenance costs are factored in.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday that state and county governments would pay a combined $850 million of the total $1.4 billion cost to build the new open-air stadium in Orchard Park.

Investigative journalist David Cay Johnston calls this a bad deal for taxpayers.

With a reported net worth of almost $6 billion, team owners Kim and Terry Pegula can afford to build their own stadium, he said.

"Why are we giving welfare to billionaires?" Johnston asked. "And why are we doing it at a time when the proposed New York state budget will cut benefits to the poorest families in the state?"

Hochul has justified the public investment, in part, by saying that the Bills generate $27 million in state, county and city taxes and over $385 million in economic activity for the western New York region annually.

But Johnston said a professional football team doesn't grow a region's economy — it simply shifts people's discretionary spending.

"And we know this because there was a baseball strike in the 1990s, and lo and behold, spending at bars, cabarets, bowling alleys … went up by the exact amount that revenues of Major League Baseball went down," he said.

The stadium deal still requires the approval of the New York State Legislature and the Erie County Legislature.

Click on the audio link above to hear an interview with Johnston, chief editor of

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.