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The Buffalo Bills are most likely not moving to Austin after new stadium proposal. (Buffalo Bills/Facebook)

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."

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."


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