A $1.4 billion stadium for Afghans, Iraqis, and Somalis to watch American football

“After decades of decline, Buffalo boasts a ‘Refugee Renaissance.’ Can it last?” (Democrat and Chronicle, January 2022):

After reinventing itself as a haven for refugees, Buffalo seems poised for renewal. But with success comes higher rents.

Across the nation, the results of the 2020 census were the source of hand-wringing and political debate. But in Western New York, they were cause for unbridled celebration.

For the first time in 70 years, the city of Buffalo had grown.

The city’s modest 6% growth was trumpeted by officials as a pivotal triumph for a Rust Belt city that had become synonymous with loss. Hollowed out first by suburban flight and then the loss of manufacturing jobs, the onetime steel and iron powerhouse had hemorrhaged more than 50% of its population in the half-century since 1950. By the turn of the millennium, it also ranked among the most poverty-stricken in the nation.

The city’s turnaround came from a perhaps unlikely source: refugees from some of the most conflict-riven places in the world. After welcoming fewer immigrants than any city its size in the 2000 census, Buffalo has since re-imagined itself as a haven for new Americans from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq.

Over the past two decades, more than a quarter of the refugees who came to the state of New York arrived in Buffalo’s Erie County, even as native Buffalonians continued to flee to greener economic pastures. Since 2002, more than 16,000 refugees have resettled in Buffalo.

Higher rents as the price of prosperity

West Side homes that used to sell for $40,000 might now go for hundreds of thousands, said Beehag at the International Institute, straining the resources of agencies trying to find housing for refugees who may need months to find jobs. To house the around 500 incoming Afghan evacuees, agencies are relying in part on churches and universities for short-term housing.

Poverty rates in Buffalo have barely budged even as other economic indicators trend upward — leaving both refugees and longtime residents alike in danger of displacement, according to a 2019 analysis led by Adelman.

What do impoverished refugees “from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq [and Afghanistan]” need from taxpayers? “Buffalo Bills Strike Deal for Taxpayer-Funded $1.4 Billion Stadium” (New York Times, March 28, 2022):

New York State officials have reached a deal with the Buffalo Bills to use $850 million in public funds to help the team build a $1.4 billion stadium — the largest taxpayer contribution ever for a pro football facility.

Under the deal, the state would finance $600 million of the construction costs, while Erie County, where the stadium will be built adjacent to its current home, would cover $250 million. The remainder would be financed through a $200 million loan from the N.F.L. that was approved on Monday, plus $350 million from the team’s owners.

“Taxpayers To Be Billed a Billion Dollars for Buffalo Bills’ New Stadium” (reason.com):

as Field of Schemes blogger Neil deMause parses in his detailed rundown of the stadium deal, the actual public subsidies probably exceed $1 billion—and that doesn’t account for things like interest payments on the borrowing that the state and county will likely have to do to finance the agreement. The fine print of Monday’s announcement, deMause notes, puts the public on the hook for $6 million annually for the next 30 years to fund upgrades to the stadium and another $6.6 million for the next 15 years to fund “maintenance and repair.” All told, that’s an extra $160 million in taxpayer funds pledged to the project beyond the $850 million price tag.


  • “Sports, Jobs, & Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?” (classic 1997 paper from Brookings)
  • “Sacking Taxpayers: How NFL Stadium Subsidies Waste Money And Fall Short On Their Promises Of Economic Development” (Heartland 2015): “Taxpayers funded more than half the construction cost of 12 stadiums from 1995-2013,” TPA says. “During that time, national median household income rose 0.3 percent across the United States, adjusted for inflation. In the dozen counties in which an NFL stadium was built using more than 50 percent public funds, however, median household income plummeted 5.7 percent during the same time. Twenty-six counties in America are home to an NFL stadium that received tax dollars between 1995 and 2013. In an astonishing 17 of those 26 counties, the median household income actually decreased in constant dollars after the stadium received public money for construction or renovation. Taxpayer-financed NFL stadiums didn’t just appear to decrease median income, they also apparently contributed to increasing the number of people living in poverty.”
  • “NFL owners approve sale of Bills to Pegulas” (2014): That payment would be for $1.4 billion. (i.e., if we don’t adjust for inflation, the cost to taxpayers, who will get nothing in return, will in the same ballpark (so to speak), as the cost to the owners)
  • “Celebrating Women’s History Month” (BuffaloBills.com), from a team that refuses to hire anyone identifying as a “woman” to be a player

18 thoughts on “A $1.4 billion stadium for Afghans, Iraqis, and Somalis to watch American football

  1. The housing supply must be kept low, so the rent seekers can extract 50% of people’s income. What does a politician do who wants to shovel money to his friends in the construction industry while keeping his rent seeker friends happy? Build stadiums!

    The plebs does not have proper accommodation, but they have bread and circuses. The stadium might also provide temporary shelter for the next 80,000 “refugees”.

    • Thanks, Mark, for these references. This stadium is much more interesting to me than the typical project for handing taxpayer dollars over to billionaire cronies of politicians. The trend is for Buffalo to be entirely populated by people from countries that have no interest in American football. I’m sure that the recent immigrants (and/or their children) from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. would be very interested in attending a World Cup soccer game, but why would they want to pay $500 per ticket to see an NFL game?

    • That America can have a newsletter dedicated to boondoggles (and enough content to fill it!) is a sign how great it is. No other country or even empire could have sustained so many boondoggles and not collapsed!

    • Buffalo sounds like one of those Rust Belt cities that is “rough” and has “cheap real-estate”. So if the politicians can back fill decreasing population with immigrants from Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq then its new sources of labor and economy and tax revenue.

    • Paul: I don’t think the migrants are a new source of labor because their labor force participation rate is low. See https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/publications/pdf/LewistonMigrantReport.pdf for example, where Somalis in Maine had a labor participation rate that stablized at around 24 percent after five years of being established. So any boost to the local economy would have to come from federal and state welfare payments, e.g., via Medicaid, SNAP/EBT, or housing vouchers.

      67 percent of migrants in Buffalo are in poverty or “near poverty” and therefore should be eligible for every welfare program. See https://numbersinneed.org/stories-of-need/refugees-immigrants/ (and the welfare entitlement is accelerating: “The poverty rate for refugees and immigrants increased more than for any other vulnerable population in Buffalo Niagara between 2011 and 2017.”)

  2. I skimmed to the bottom of the report. Some of these areas are rapidly aging and others are gangland, or a combination of both. Employment may not that be easy aside from hospital ER , and maybe nursing homes. Language barriers permitting.

    “The Somali immigrants had an overall employment rate of 49 percent, with 552 of the 1,118 working-age Somali immigrants having wages at some point before September 2006.

    “The immigrant from other countries had an employment rate of 59 percent, with 182 of the 309 working-age immigrants having wages.

    “The employment rate for males from Somalia was much higher than that for females, while the rates were much closer for immigrants from other countries

    • These employment numbers reflect employment in service sector for those 67% needy that is financed with public money. While these jobs are needed in any civilized society they do not add new value that expands economy beyond what is printed/collected in taxes and these jobs can not be economic driver as Buffalo “Democrats” are asserting, beyond being magnet for federal $$$. Upstate New York once was a place of many industries employing “demos” and producing value, even recently, but New York “Democrats” expelled high tech and manufacturing employers by over-regulation and taxation and sometimes explicitly as in case of historic New Your firearms manufacturers, and demos left politicians that they put into office and relocated to catch up with employment opportunities.

  3. > After welcoming fewer immigrants than any city its size in the 2000 census, Buffalo has since re-imagined itself as a haven for new Americans from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq.

    This: “as a haven for new Americans”. “new Americans”, really? For the past several decades, the majority of immigrant, especially those from the Middle East, do not mix or integrate well in the USA. They come here for the easy life, not to make American better.

    Sorry, but Buffalo will dip further into poverty, and this time using taxpayers money.

    • the $1.4 billion stadium isn’t going to build itself. So they will need labor. Preferably of a younger generation of he/she/they/zir with strong backs rather than gray beards with big bellies.

    • George: the largest industries in Buffalo are health care and education. See https://www.ellicottdevelopment.com/where-is-business-booming-in-buffalo/

      A migrant who never works can therefore still boost the Buffalo economy. He/she/ze/they might arrive with $1 million (at U.S. prices) in deferred medical care. That will all be paid for by taxes collected outside of Buffalo to fund Medicaid. If the migrant and/or the migrant’s children attend K-12 public school, that triggers $millions in state and federal aid. See https://www.wgrz.com/article/news/education/buffalo-public-schools-get-more-than-1-billion-dollars-in-state-federal-funding/71-2d837a81-bd05-4bf9-8d21-47841586b8ac for example. If the migrant and/or the migrant’s children go to college in Buffalo, that brings in federal higher ed subsidies.

      In other words, migrants who make the U.S. poorer, on average, can still make a failed city such as Buffalo richer (or a little less poor anyway)!

      But even if Buffalo does become a little richer via this influx of migrants from countries where soccer is the priority spectator sport, we are still left with the question of why it would make sense to spend $1 billion in taxpayer funds on an American football (NFL) stadium!

    • Paul: Since the stadium is being built with public funds, doesn’t it have to all be done with union labor? The whole point of a union is to exclude newcomers and protect jobs for existing members. Here’s an article from 1959 on unions excluded Black Americans from their ranks: https://www.commentary.org/articles/herbert-hill/labor-unions-and-the-negrothe-record-of-discrimination/

      More recent: https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2010/1/cj30n1-4.pdf

    • @Philp,

      > In other words, migrants who make the U.S. poorer, on average, can still make a failed city such as Buffalo richer (or a little less poor anyway)!

      Data shows otherwise. Take Lowell, Worcester or Fitchburg as examples here in your former state of Massakhusetts. All those cities get a good chunk of public money and have well known public universities and a diverse population with a lot of immigrants but yet those cities are poorer than others and are not a city you want to raise a family in. To me those are failed cities even with millions of $$ of public money spent and immigrants moving in.

    • @Paul, those younger generation with strong backs will not work on the stadium. Their work habit is fixed to their family strict life style. They will need to follow their elder rules or else: pray 5 times a day, be warned of making friends with the infidels, observe Ramadan and fasting, etc. I can tell you a whole story around this.

    • George: I agree with you that Lowell, Worcester or Fitchburg are crummy and poor. But the question from their perspective is whether they can become a little less crummy/poor by adding one more welfare-entitled migrant.

      What if Lowell, Worcester or Fitchburg had never received any migrants at all? Maybe the elites in those cities, e.g., the government workers and those in health care and education, would be worse off!

      Consider Buffalo. Without migrants, the school population would fall to the point that teachers would get laid off (realistically the only way that a teacher can lose his/her/zir/their job). With migrants, the teacher can get $200,000 per year including pension and health care (looks like $100k is the top cash comp for 9 months of work, but teaching a summer class and fairly valuing the pension and health insurance would likely nudge the total close to $200k; see https://www.buffaloschools.org/cms/lib/NY01913551/Centricity/Domain/57/BTF%20Teachers%20Salary%20Schedule.pdf )

    • @Philp

      > What if Lowell, Worcester or Fitchburg had never received any migrants at all? Maybe the elites in those cities, e.g., the government workers and those in health care and education, would be worse off!

      Of course. At the same time, those elites and government workers either don’t live in those crummy cities or live in the well off, off limit and gated part of the crummy city. They have an easy and comfortable job and schedule and retie early with good pension — all this off other non crummy cities and towns.

    • George: Good point! One can work in the poor mines of Fitchburg (median household income of $54,683; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fitchburgcitymassachusetts ) and commute from Sterling, MA (median household income $122,810; https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/sterlingtownworcestercountymassachusetts/SBO010212 ).

      Looks as though $100,000/year in cash comp is easily obtained for a mid-career teacher who leads an after-school activity or two. http://fitchburg.massteacher.org/Fitchburg%20Teachers%20Contract%2007.01.2021%20to%206.31.2024%20FINAL.pdf

      (but the contract doesn’t look so great if inflation is more than 4 percent annually!)

    • @ George A.

      I think they will build 1.4 billion dollar stadiums as long as they are given opportunity to pray 5 times per day and paid enough so their wives can stay home (and not divorce). The locals may have to wake up really early to mosques loudspeakers making a racket. Or be persuaded to convert and not be infidels.

Comments are closed.