Two-thirds of readers participating in this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say the Buffalo Bills franchise still will be in Western New York five years from now. The news that the Bills will play annual regular-season games in Toronto through 2012, beginning this year, triggered renewed speculation about the future of the franchise in Buffalo. It intensified when, during a recent visit to Toronto, Bills owner Ralph Wilson responded to a question about the Bills relocating north of the border by saying, “Don’t worry right now.”
If Wilson were to sell the Bills, more than half the respondents favored Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly-who has said he has the financial backing needed-buying the franchise and keeping it in Buffalo.
More than 40 percent of readers favored Rochester billionaire Thomas Golisano buying the franchise.
“If the situation arises, I would do what I can to try to keep the team in the area,” Golisano told the Associated Press over the weekend, while noting that Wilson has insisted he has no intention of selling the franchise.
Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, also have been mentioned as possible future owners. They are partners for the annual Bills games at the Rogers Centre.
Roughly 550 readers took part in the poll, conducted Feb. 11 and 12.
Do you think the Bills franchise still will be in Buffalo five years from now?
If the Bills were to be sold, who would you favor as the new owner?
Jim Kelly and his investor group 51%
Paychex founder Tom Golisano 41%
Toronto’s Ted Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum 3%
The franchise will only be in Buffalo if someone like Golisano or Kelly keeps it here, or brings it back, out of commitment to the economy and fans of Upstate New York. Anyone who does it solely for the money will take it elsewhere.
-Kathleen Moyse, Charlotte
Tom Golisano saved the Sabres from bankruptcy, and turned the team around to a couple of winning seasons. Granted not a great season this year, but I believe he would be able to give the Bills the same boost. As a lifelong Bills fan, I would love to see them in a playoff game again.
-Kyle Ingraham, Avalon Copy Centers
Why is this town so interested in supporting Buffalo and their sports teams? The dollars that leave this community for their economic growth are better spent in our own. Let’s support our own local sports teams for a change.
Ralph Wilson has stated that he will own the team as long as he is alive. I think it would be better if he would sell the team while he is alive to a buyer such as Jim Kelly or Tom Golisano who genuinely cares about keeping the Bills in Buffalo. If the team is sold after Ralph Wilson dies, then I think it could become a bidding-war situation where an outsider with deep pockets would get the team with no allegiance to Western New York and ultimately move the team to a different market.
-Mark C. Williams, vice president of finance, DeCarolis Truck Rental Inc.
This is a high-profile issue, but at the end of the day, the Bills are a private company and will go where they can make money. I don’t think it will happen in the next five years, but moving is always a possibility.
There is a moral obligation to keep the Bills in Buffalo especially after New York State taxpayers paid millions to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium.
-Jack Bent, Charter Real Estate Brokerage
The deeper the pockets, the better off the franchise will be. Look how well Tom has turned around the Sabres.
With the expressed interest and support of Tom Golisano and Jim Kelly, I’m confident that the Bills will remain the Buffalo Bills.
02/15/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal