Floating ideas on a future site for the Bills stadium

There’s been a whole lot of talk about where the Bills will reside once their newest lease expires in 10 years (or seven depending on what course of action they take).

While the current renovations will serve as little more than a soggy band-aid for the aging stadium, the lease is designed to provide the time necessary to get a new stadium designed, approved and built in Western New York. Of course seven to ten years probably isn’t long enough around these parts.

Although a shiny new stadium built on the Outer Harbor is probably the first choice for many new stadium advocates, I think that it’s more likely that Bass Pro will build a floating supercenter to support the new signature Peace Bridge span before a football stadium gets constructed on the Outer Harbor. Too many opponents with plans for parks, public access and other causes which simply don’t align with a billion dollar project such as that.

Bear in mind that a number of stadiums have been built in the past 10-20 years for relatively acceptable costs and there’s no reason to think that the new Bills stadium (open or with a roof) couldn’t be completed without eclipsing the billion dollar plateau.

Instead, I think there are a few more feasible locations throughout the city that would not only appease those who staunchly disagree with placing the stadium on the water but also the parties who hope to see the stadium built in the city limits. I’ll go in order of most ridiculous and unrealistic and work my way down to the plan I like best  (forgive the sloppy photo work).

Silo City

This would likely be the most ambitious of the plans simply because of the odd footprint that this project would need to fit into. There are a pair of locations that I think could conceivably fit a new stadium for the team and they’re both peninsulas formed by the meandering Buffalo River.  SiloCity

Either site would be fed by Ohio St., Route 5, and other city streets. Obviously the infrastructure in the area would prove to be a massive challenge as at least one or two additional thoroughfares would be necessary in order to get fans in and out of the area. In addition (as is illustrated in the picture) both sites could be served by a stadium lot located near Silo City (Lot A) that would connect to the peninsulas by pedestrian bridges (green). The yellow lines would signify automotive bridges if they were deemed necessary.

The first site is home to the mammoth Concrete Central Grain Elevator and is set further back from the Lake, Route 5 and Ohio St. than the other option. What isn’t made clear in the picture is the inclusion of the Concrete Central Elevator into the design of the stadium. In this pie-in-the-sky plan, Concrete Central would serve as the western wall of the stadium while the rest of the building would occupy the peninsula.

Using this plan would allow the relatively empty Katherine St. peninsula as a location for parking or even a Patriots Place-like commercial development space.

The second site (Site B) would sit just across the river from Silo City and would actually claim a great deal of space from Katherine St. This may actually be less feasible than the Concrete Central plan due to the activity that occurs on this particular plot of land.

Truthfully, neither of these sites makes much sense. The logistics would be a nightmare and the site is somewhat isolated in an area that doesn’t really fit in with a stadium. While it would be cool to see the look of the grain elevators worked into a new stadium design, it just wouldn’t work well in this particular space.

Larkin District

LarkinMy second unrealistic plan resides in the Larkin District. While there is a lot of land out that way, in addition to a rail right of way for the NFTA, there would be significant logistical challenges to actually pursuing such a project.

As the picture illustrates, perhaps the most ideal location would require a handful of existing rail lines to be rerouted around the space that would likely be taken up by a stadium. Any other space would require purchasing and demolishing a great number of homes. A real non-starter. While the proximity to the Thruway is about as ideal as you can get, I’d assume that the presence of those rail lines would be a deal breaker.

As for the automobile travelers, the only change I could imagine being necessary would be to upgrade the on and off-ramps going down to Fillmore and Seneca in order to handle game day traffic. In addition, the pre-existing rail right of way that the NFTA controls would allow the light rail to be extended to Larkin (and even up to the airport and mall) without any trouble.

There isn’t much else to this idea as it is relatively cut and dry. If it’s possible to disturb those rail lines with minimal expense or consequence, then perhaps this makes more sense than I think. The rail right of way would allow for an easy connection to downtown, the location has easy access to the Thruway and the burgeoning Larkin District would likely explode as a result.

Cobblestone

If there’s anywhere downtown that could support a stadium, it’s the Cobblestone District. While the footprint is limited and some relatively significant logistical changes would be required, it’s really the only downtown location that exists. While I’m beyond excited by the momentum being gained in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t hate seeing the stadium built here.Downtown

First consider that First Niagara Center, HarborCenter, the Seneca Casino and the Canalside developments would all be a pitching wedge away from the stadium. In addition to the proposed NFTA rail extension that could provide a light rail stop right at the back door of the stadium.

In addition to the HarborCenter and arena lots, the HSBC Atrium lot could conceivably be converted to a multi-level garage with the previously mentioned Metro-Rail extension leading to the proposed garage that was to accompany that project.

Fitting the stadium over the two Perry St. lots, and up towards the Thruway would be a major challenge. In fact, it may not be enough space to allow for an NFL stadium. The point being that this would be the rough footprint for a stadium if it were to end up in this area.

In addition to the unlikely fit there are a few other negatives to consider. First, the overall growth of the Arena District is such that many more projects are likely to spring up in that area in the very near future. In fact, Ellicott Development recently purchase the Nicholson-Hall property and there have been whispers of a hotel taking that space. Space that sits on the corner of this proposed plan. Second, Cobblestone District has been growing at a similar rate to that of Canalside and the Arena and could conceivably continue to grow across to the two surface lots that currently sit in such a prime location. Third, eliminating the potential for countless other residential and commercial projects in the area for the stadium would likely drum up plenty of ire from numerous public interest groups.

The pros are obvious, however. A stadium would spur additional commercial interest in projects like Ellicott’s Freezer Queen property, HarborCenter, Canalside and the remaining buildings in the Cobblestone District. It would also group Buffalo’s stadiums into one (albeit large)neighborhood, putting the focus of the sporting community – and their disposable  income – in a singular area.

Seattle serves as an excellent example of a city that has their venues in the same neighborhood. Not only does it keep that portion of the community centered in one area, but it can help spur development in other markets (bars, restaurants etc.) due to the consistent patronage the area will receive.

The primary drawback to this is occupying so many prime development parcels with one project. Uniland holds the rights to the current lot at the corner of Michigan and Perry and Ellicott recently purchased the Nicholson Hall property with rumors that a Sheraton hotel is on the way. Should that be the case this little pipe dream would be all but kaput.

Other parcels, namely the expansive pair of lots run by the Sabres, that could be developed would also go by the boards with the stadium occupying that space. While the footprint to fit a stadium is certainly there, the greater potential for residential and commercial developments in the Cobblestone District would likely draw plenty of attention and ire from those who would croak if a stadium was built in such an area.

That doesn’t leave too many other options for a new Bills stadium unless you’re circling back to the Outer Harbor. There are a few other spots within the city limits which could work (former Republic Steel site) if worked properly. I just wonder what the best option may be.

The clock is ticking on finding that solution.

4 thoughts on “Floating ideas on a future site for the Bills stadium

  1. Dave Firth Bard November 7, 2013 / 10:32 am

    The clock is definitely ticking. I personally like your Larkin idea the best — if the NFTA does build the light rail extension out that way, I think it would work quite well.

    I was actually talking about this with my brother the other day (the fear of the Bills leaving Buffalo is constantly in the back of our minds) — what about building it near the old Central Terminal? Within Buffalo city limits, potential future rail links to Rochester and Toronto. Gobble up several blocks of the East Side via eminent domain, and voila!

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    • Chris Ostrander November 7, 2013 / 10:38 am

      I think it makes the most sense in terms of space and fit. But potentially re-routing those rail lines or taking out some of the homes over that way probably makes it a very hard sell. But the light rail right-of-way makes it an enticing spot.

      Like

  2. Fletcher December 22, 2013 / 4:23 pm

    Is their any possibility of just building on one of the current Bills parking lots and turning Ralph Wilson stadium into a parking lot? I feel Bills fans pain since I am from Atlanta and we are having similar troubles with the future Falcons and Braves stadiums.

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    • Chris Ostrander December 23, 2013 / 8:23 am

      I think they could conceivably fit a new stadium in the lots across the street on Abbott. Much like what was done in other cities in which they built the new stadium directly across from the old one. However, I get the feeling that whatever the plan is with the next stadium, Orchard Park won’t be part of it. I have to think that building within the city limits is the hope moving forward.

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