Five years ago, a private group of developers had spent over $1 million to create plans for a new waterfront, multi-sport facility and football stadium. The project never went forward due to concerns from some lawmakers about issues like infrastructure and traffic management. However, supporters believe to this day that Buffalo lost a unique opportunity.
The project was called the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex (GBSEC). It was going to feature a 72,000 seat retractable-roof football stadium that included year-round facilities for other sports in addition to a convention center, hotel and retail space. Cost for the new complex was estimated to be around $1.4 billion dollars.
Private funding was secured for the creation of the complex, but it needed government investment for infrastructure improvements so large amounts of traffic and crowds could get to the outer harbor location.
"I never understood why people fought so hard against it," said Patrick Freeman, a former GBSEC vice president. Other members of the group pushing for the complex included George Hasiotis, Nicholas Stracick and Joe Mascia.
Freemen said he just recently returned from Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he was heartbroken to think that the event could have happened in Buffalo. "It would have been a regional event for 10 days that would have brought in $1 billion dollars to WNY, Toronto and Rochester," explained Freeman.
Adding insult to injury, Freeman said the Buffalo complex was being designed by HKS Sports & Entertainment, a Dallas-based architectural and engineering firm, that helped design new, state-of-the-art stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings (which hosted the most recent Super Bowl).
"We saw a winter successful Super Bowl in Minneapolis that should have been in Buffalo," added Freeman.
The GBSEC proposed waterfront complex was expected to create 8 to 15,000 living wage jobs with an anticipated $31 million influx to the community.
At the time, some lawmakers opposed to the project had concerns about its funding and how large crowds of traffic would be moved in and out from the waterfront location without problems.
Freeman said his group was asking to have a rail line extended and new bridges constructed to handle the flow of people. However, he felt political pressure sidelined the project and encouraged the NFTA and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to pull back from negotiations.
"They were so dedicated to putting money into the existing stadium and the existing stadium is falling apart," added Freeman, who believes a new stadium has to be considered for keeping the Buffalo Bills long term.
The area for the GBSEC waterfront sports project has now been developed into a public use and nature area.
"They are now talking about raising butterflies on an area that would have employed thousands of people," said Freeman.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly talked with Patrick Freeman, who said he has written to the Pegulas, the current owners of the Buffalo Bills, as he is still hoping the waterfront complex idea might be resurrected.