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Buffalo Bills were paid tens of thousands for graduation ceremonies at Highmark Stadium

BILLS_GRADUATION
Posted at 3:00 PM, Oct 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 07:05:26-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As the conversation about a new Bills stadium gains momentum and the discussion continues about who will foot the bill, the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team is learning how much and who you paid for graduation, at Highmark Stadium in June, 2021.

The pomp and circumstance for graduation, at Highmark Stadium, actually symbolizes dollars and cents.

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned, graduation ceremonies for three school districts last June, cost those districts-- and really, school tax payers-- tens of thousands of dollars. It's the Bills who are being paid.

COST PER SCHOOL DISTRICT

  • In the Frontier School District graduation cost $21,683.
  • In Orchard Park the cost was just under $20,000, at $19,898.
  • In Hamburg the total cost was $21,529.

There was a $5,000 license fee factored into the total cost of graduation at Highmark Stadium.

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Itemized bill for graduation at Highmark Stadium from the Buffalo Bills. This was obtained by the I-Team through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

The I-Team spoke with superintendent Michael Cornell, who says this cost more than what an ordinary graduation would cost. We asked about the decision to have graduation on the field, where the Bills play.

"We collaborated with our students," Cornell said. "We wanted to know exactly what they hoped for for graduation. We wanted to know what the parents hoped for for their childrens' graduation and we did our level best to ensure we could do that in a setting that would allow it under the guidelines at the time we had to plan. So, the Bills being our partner allowed us to take all the variables off the table -- in terms of restrictions -- and plan in advance, a graduation that the students and their families wanted."

But if the guidelines hadn't been so restrictive, Cornell said administrators were planning to have graduation on their football field.

For one year, Cornell said, there was a big difference.

While Cornell says, parents were pretty happy they could be there to watch their student walk across the stage, one West Seneca man says, he's glad his school district decided to have graduation somewhere else.

"Some of the people were complaining that East and West schools weren't going to Highmark Stadium," Jim Lexa said. "If the West Seneca School District had done that, I would have been really upset. Taxes almost go up every year so you got to try and cut costs. I don't know how you can justify paying that kind of money when you're trying to cut costs."

Back in Hamburg, we're told the Class of 2022 Commencement Ceremony will be on home turf, at the district's football field.

We've reached out to the Bills several times for comment. They have not returned our calls.

A spokesman for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says, "the County has no involvement to anything associated with scheduling graduation...at Highmark Stadium."