New York Senator Charles Schumer has long been a proponent of securing the long-term future of the Bills in Buffalo. On Wednesday afternoon he announced proposed amendments to the NFL’s G-4 stadium loan program that he feels will help taxpayers and the club in providing more advantageous funding for renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The league’s G-4 program offer a one-for-one match from league coffers if a team contributes at least $25 million toward the cost to build a new or renovate an existing stadium. The loaned money is then repaid to the league over time by using the revenue from visiting team seat sales. But Schumer believes the current language of the G-4 loan provision is not beneficial to the Bills.
“There is a provision in the G-4 loan agreement that could threaten to intercept the Bills play to take advantage of the loan,” said Schumer. “Currently the G-4 program requires the loan to be paid back in full upon the sale of the team. The ‘due on sale’ makes the program less attractive for the current Bills ownership to participate.
“That’s why I’ve reached out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who I have a very good relationship with, and asked him to consider amending the due on sale provision of the G-4 loan program.”
The amendment the Senator is proposing is that the ‘due on sale’ clause does not apply to NFL owners that have owned their club for more than 20 years.
With prior precedent already existing in other NFL bylaws, Schumer is confident adoption of the amendment is realistic.
“It’s not novel for the NFL,” said Schumer. “They’ve already written in a similar exception for people who have owned the team for more than 20 years in the revenue sharing agreement that the league currently uses. They’ve done it for the revenue sharing in terms of paying that back, they can do it for this G-4 program.”
Schumer’s second proposal is to make a relocation provision ironclad with the G-4 program. There is a current ‘due on relocation’ clause, which much like the ‘due on sale’ clause demands that the club repay the loan in full upon relocation.
“Under these amendments the new owner would have a choice to keep the team in Buffalo and continue to use the loan money or move the team and be forced not only to pay back the loan in full, but also return to a system where they have to give the visiting team share of revenue to the league,” said Schumer. “In other words it could create a penalty of $25 million or even more depending on how much the Bills put in if a new owner decides to move the team.”
The Senator felt prompted to propose these amendments because there remains the possibility that the team could be sold before renovations are complete on the stadium and before all the loan monies are repaid.
“So it has two benefits, some real money that would help with the renovation no matter what deal is reached between the county and the state,” said Schumer. “And then a very strong incentive to keep the Bills in Buffalo for the whole period of the loan.”
Bills CEO Russ Brandon made the following comment to the Buffalo News concerning Senator Schumer’s efforts late Wednesday afternoon.
“I spoke to Mr. Wilson this afternoon about Senator Schumer’s recommendations, and clearly the proposed amendments would be very helpful to our franchise,” said Brandon. “Obviously, Senator Schumer has made productive recommendations in the past and has certainly been an advocate for small-market franchises like ourselves.”
Following Schumer’s press conference at One Bills Drive, the NFL office issued the following statement to Buffalobills.com.
“We appreciate the Senator's interest and will continue to work with him and consider his ideas to ensure the long-term future of the Bills in Buffalo.”