Will struggling economy help Bills, Sabres stay put?

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Good news for Buffalo sports fans — it’s not a sure thing, but the flailing economy could do wonders to keep pro sports teams in their current homes for a bit.

The reason is simple, the thought of building new arenas or stadiums at a time so dire is ridiculous. Although it wouldn’t be unthinkable for communities to fill already-existing structures — like the L.A. Coliseum or Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum — it’s highly unlikely that local municipalities will approve major tax funding for anything new.

And here’s the best news for us — although the WNY economy has lagged behind the rest of the nation’s for years, the fact that we’re not being hit as hard as other places will probably fare well for ticket sales for our two pro sports teams. If we keep selling tickets, and if other cities have trouble filling expensive suites and selling corporate sponsorships, it’s possible the playing field will again be leveled. Fans, not huge corporate dollars, will again be the most attractive commodity.

The downturn will certainly help the Sabres stay put — even if the team changes hands, it’s unlikely Gary Bettman and Co. would allow any new owner to move games because of Buffalo’s impressive attendance figures.

And with the Bills, it might not be the long-term answer, but it should help on the interim. It’s doubtful that NFL execs will be as willing to turn their backs on resilient fans, especially if season ticket sales slump league wide.

The only possible crack in this theory is if President Obama’s stimulus package frees up money to build new stadiums. The owner of the Minnesota Vikings is already trying to use this legal loophole. Let’s hope the new boss, unlike the old boss, isn’t that short-sighted when it comes to the nation’s needs.


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