CHAUTAUQUA - One thing was clear Wednesday morning at the Chautauqua Institute - National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell sees no reason why the Buffalo Bills can't continue to be successful in Western New York.
Goodell, a Jamestown native, was on hand Wednesday taking part in the Institute's 2012 lecture platform series. Along with Southeastern Conference Commissioner, Mike Slive, Goodell took questions from NBC television personality Luke Russert on ethics and sports.
Before the panel discussion, Goodell met with members of the media where the topic of discussion was centered on the Bills' future.
OBSERVER?Photo by?Gib Snyder III
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is shown taking questions from the media prior to being a part of the Chautauqua Institution 2012 lecture platform Wednesday, in Chautauqua.
"I think the fans need to know they need to do everything they can to support the Bills," Goodell said. "And we're going to work hard to make sure they continue to be successful here. There is no reason why they can't be. We have a new collective bargaining agreement, we have new revenue sharing. All of those will be beneficial to making sure the team continues to be successful here in Western New York. And that's where we want to see them."
Most of the questions touched on the Bills' ongoing lease negotiations with Erie County.
"As far as the negotiations are concerned, I'm not directly involved," Goodell said. "I get updates from various parties, most specifically the Bills. I know they're working hard at it and hopeful they can get something done in the near future. Like anything though, things don't happen quite as fast as you all want. But I know the intent of the Bills is to get something done responsibly and I think they want to do that quickly."
Bills' fans throughout Western New York have had the thought of losing the team to a bigger market lingering in their thoughts for longer than any one of them would like to admit, and the most notable destination thus far has been Los Angeles. The nation's second largest media market, Los Angeles is a city that has been craving an NFL team since the then Los Angeles Raiders moved back north to Oakland in 1995.
"I don't think it has anything to do with Los Angeles," Goodell said. "I think everyone wants the Bills to be here in Western New York, in Buffalo. They want to do it in a successful way, but the lease is up, so it's important to get this done and to have a long-term lease that will address the short-term stadium issues and the long-term stadium issues and make sure the team is successful here. So I put it as a very high priority."
The method by which the Bills would go about improving Ralph Wilson Stadium also came up, with Goodell touching on the potential for the Bills to take advantage of the NFL's G4 loan program, which allows the NFL to match any funds over $25 million spent by teams to improve their stadiums.
"We, the league, will match or in some ways contribute funding along those lines, because having the best stadiums is important," Goodell said. "And it's unique to the NFL. We're the only league that does this and I think it serves the community as well as the NFL. It's about keeping all 32 of the teams strong."
The G4 program is a route that Goodell has encouraged teams to go down when thinking of ways to improve and modify their stadiums.
"I encourage them to negotiate to make sure their stadium is in the best possible condition," Goodell said. "We don't make determinations of what needs to get done to the stadium. And based on what they think the project size is and the scope of it and what the funding, then the policy fits in. And it's designed to apply to all 32 teams. They know the ground rules."
As Goodell was speaking to the media Wednesday morning, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, R-N.Y., was in Buffalo preparing for a press conference to display his support for the Bills and the plan he has come up with for the Bills to take advantage of the G4 loan. Goodell, who was unaware of the time Schumer's press conference, did state however, that he had talked to the Senator on Tuesday.
"I spoke to the Senator (Tuesday)," Goodell said. "As you know he's one of the greatest supporters for keeping the Bills in Western New York. We always work closely together. We spoke briefly about some ideas that he had and I said that we'll continue to work with him and we'll see how they work."
As for what is to happen to the Bills once Ralph Wilson passes away, Goodell informed the press that the Bills' 93 year-old owner has not changed his plans for what is to happen to the team once he is gone.
"Mr. Wilson has made it very clear that he's not going to sell the franchise while he's alive," Goodell said. "And once he passes on, the franchise will be sold."