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San Diego, former NFL cities reached out to Buffalo Bills owners about moving team, per Governor

Not a surprise, but heard for the first time

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

It’s been a long time since the Buffalo Bills or their representatives publicly used the looming specter of relocation as a means of negotiating. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still part of the negotiations behind the scenes.

Speaking on WNYC radio in New York City (via reporter Jon Campbell), New York State Governor Kathy Hochul was asked about the stadium in the westernmost part of New York by folks in the southeasternmost part. Hochul stressed regional prioritizes, providing an example sure to hit close to home for city-dwellers.

“Like Broadway is to New York City, this team is to Western New York,” said Hochul.

That’s not the headline on the article, though. Hochul mentioned some budget priorities that were mentioned in the caller’s question before turning back to the Bills and their new stadium.

“They did have options to leave and that’s always hanging over Western New Yorkers,” said Hochul without yet getting specific.

The governor continued to discuss the Bills potentially relocating, referencing Jon Bon Jovi’s failed ownership bid and a potential move to Toronto hanging over her younger days. Were the Pegulas bluffing about moving the team? A bit of information we hadn’t yet heard to justify the public dollars was shared next.

“I was aware that they were being reached out to by cities that have lost other teams before,” said Hochul. “Their stadium was starting to crumble. Something had to happen and if a decision wasn’t done soon, they had definitely other options.”

Recently, the Raiders have left Oakland for Las Vegas and the Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles while being joined by the former San Diego Chargers in L.A. Vegas and Los Angeles are huge markets flush with cash, and the cities they left are also desperate for football teams to return.

“Buffalo is a very small market. It’s quite extraordinary that they have a team at all because there is a lot more money to be had in those larger cities like San Diego and others who would love to have a team. So that’s the reality that most people aren’t familiar with,” said Hochul, for the first tie mentioning a specific locale.

She finished the conversation noting that 43% of the total cost is state money when the Pegulas initially asked for 100% and then said the income tax would pay off the investment in under 22 years. A Pegula Sports & Entertainment spokesperson has previously denied that the Bills asked for 100% public funding for the stadium.