When NFL team Buffalo Bills' owners Terry and Kim Pegula were negotiating with the city of Buffalo to hand over a large chunk of taxpayer money for a new $1.5 billion stadium, they made an unlikely threat—relocating to Austin.
With a passionate fanbase, talks of renegotiation and the power of the Dallas Cowboy's Jerry Jones, however, the move is looking more unlikely than ever a month after the rumors first began.
News of the proposal first leaked on August 1 when ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported that the team was eyeing Austin citing the city as one of "other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it."
An ownership source tells me that Austin is a possible destination—or threat—as one of the “other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it." https://t.co/zMf1oChO8K
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) August 1, 2021
Many saw Austin as a pawn for the Pegulas to negotiate a $1.5 billion stadium paid entirely by taxpayers of New York state, but the negotiations still sparked a response from Gov. Greg Abbott and Mayor Steve Adler, who opened up a discussion about possible new names for the team (his Austin Amps idea was particularly unpopular).
The Bills' lease expires in 2023, and their current venue at Highmark Stadium is nearing 50. The Pegulas say they have spent an estimated $146 million on renovations since their purchase in 2014 and much more is needed to completely revamp the stadium.
Instead of staying put or making a costly move to downtown Buffalo, the team released a new stadium proposal on Tuesday for a $1.4 billion stadium on a team-controlled parking lot down the street. The stadium, which shaved its budget down from an original $1.9 billion proposal, will include 60,000 seats and 60 suites and is expected to finish no later than 2027.
But instead of tapping into their fracking-fueled wealth—Forbes has estimated their net worth sits near $6 billion—the Pegulas are looking for a significant chunk of funds from the city.
"The expectation is the state and county will be asked to cover more than 50% of the project, raising concerns about the potential for taxpayer funding," said John Wawrow of the Associated Press.
The idea of "public-private partnership" is controversial at best. By comparison, the New York Giants and Jet's MetLife Stadium was entirely privately funded for a pricey $1.6 billion. Team owners argue that sports teams boost local economies and pay off in the long run—the Bills' economic study estimates that the team generates $361 million each year in the region.
But University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson told AP that the economic impact is much lower than that.
"The answer is zero: Sports stadiums are no catalysts for economic development," Sanderson said. "They just largely enrich the team and the league and the owner of the franchise."
The pressure's on for New York leadership. In 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got significant flack after opting to give $3 billion in cash, subsidies and tax breaks for a corporate campus in Queens in a plan that later fell through.
Still, odds are in Buffalo's favor for keeping the franchise: new Gov. Kathy Hochul is a Bills fan herself and said she was "not feeling threatened" by talks of moving to Austin.
"Let the fans know we're very excited about the upcoming season, and we expect the Bills will be here a very long time," Hochul said.
Dallas Cowboys fans are some of the most loyal. (CC)
Another threat to the so-called "Austin Amps" is Jerry Jones and his commitment to keeping much of Texas "Cowboys Country." Two plans to move NFL franchises to San Antonio have fallen through at least partially at the hands of Jones, who has massive influence over the NFL's affairs. And Austin, which has just received its first professional team in Austin FC and may not be ready for another franchise, probably wouldn't be able to compete against one of the most committed fan bases in the NFL.
With Bills officials not even contacting city officials after the announcement, it looks like Austin will have to settle for Austin FC and good-ol' Texas football for the near future.
"It's time to get a stadium done that we think can make sure the Bills are here and successful for many, many decades going forward," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said to News4Buffalo. "We're focused on keeping the Bills here in a new stadium in a public, private partnership. That's what this is all about and that's where we're focusing."
After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.