Fans of the Buffalo Bills are wary of the attempt by rocker Jon Bon Jovi to purchase the team from the estate of former owner Ralph Wilson, who died in March. Perhaps it’s because two of Bon Jovi’s main partners are from Toronto, and another is the chairman of the company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, and another is Rogers Communications, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays.
Oh right, the Bills also played one “home” game a year in Toronto from 2008 to 2013 before the Toronto Series was suspended for this season, though it’s expected to resume in 2015. And Ralph Wilson Stadium is the NFL’s sixth-oldest and has comparatively few luxury suites and needs to be replaced. So Buffalo fans can be excused for thinking that, I dunno, maybe there are plans afoot to move the team up the QEW to Toronto.
New York magazine has a pretty good rundown of the whole affair, if you’re interested in reading more. In summary: Buffalo now hates Jon Bon Jovi.
First, here’s the nut graf of Bon Jovi’s letter:
Our objective is simple: to carry on the legacy of Ralph Wilson and make the Bills successful in Buffalo.
We are committed to working with the State, City, County and business community to identify the best possible site in the Buffalo area for a new stadium and to then develop and implement a plan to finance and build a state-of-the-art NFL stadium for the loyal Bills fans.
Second, here’s one line that isn’t anywhere in the letter: We have no plans to move the Bills out of Buffalo.
The Buffalo News collected fan reaction to the letter. “My opinion is that this is just like a politician saying what he needs to say to get elected,” said Charles Pellien, a co-founder of Bills Fan Thunder, which is one of the groups that is rallying opposition to the potential sale of the Bills to Bon Jovi. “He’s saying what he needs to say to get his hands on our team.”
Bon Jovi, or whoever ends up buying the Bills, won’t have much choice in the matter in the short term. The team has a lease with Erie County, which owns Ralph Wilson Stadium, that runs through 2022, and they’ll likely play their games there until at least 2019, assuming no new stadium in Buffalo is built. In 2020 and 2020 only, the team has a buyout clause that allows them to break the lease for just $28.4 million. If the Bills announce plans to move in any other year over the duration of the lease, they’ll have to pay a $400 million penalty.
The Buffalo Fan Alliance, another group that’s opposing Bon Jovi’s bid, told the Buffalo News in a statement that it would be more comfortable with Bon Jovi’s bid if the group signed a binding agreement to waive the cheaper one-year buyout in 2020 as a condition of the sale.
“If they are sincere in their commitment to Buffalo, we would ask them to enter into a binding pre-purchase agreement with the state and county whereby they would agree to proactively waive the one-year buyout clause in the seventh year of the current lease if they were to successfully purchase the team,” the group said in a statement.
“If they are truly committed to Buffalo, such an escape clause would not be necessary for them anyway and this would be a simple and demonstrable first step of their sincerity for keeping the team in Western New York,” the group added.
On Sunday, the Bills Fan Thunder Twitter account posted a photo that summed up the reaction to Bon Jovi’s letter.
— Jerry Zremski (@JerryZremski) August 3, 2014