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Rod Watson: Bills déjà vu as opportunity slips away – again

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The lack of development around Highmark Stadium is just one reason building the new facility next door, instead of downtown, constitutes a huge missed opportunity.

Now, our 13 seconds begin.

As every Buffalo Bills fan knows, that’s how long it takes for euphoria to morph into regret as promise and possibility slowly become a huge missed opportunity.

Granted, the elation is palpable this week after the state, county, team and National Football League all approved the deal to build a new Orchard Park stadium. Risking permanent shoulder injury, Gov. Kathy Hochul and County Executive Mark Poloncarz are reaching as far around as possible to pat themselves on the back.

The deal is supposed to keep the team in Western New York at an $850 million public cost that is less than the $1 billion that had been projected. And every new announcement of step-by-step progress on the new facility – and there will be many, including approvals by state and county lawmakers – will be designed to maintain enthusiasm and sell this white elephant to a public that was given no choice but to buy.

But as the process unfolds, the reality of what might have been – a downtown stadium that could have done much more than simply host football games – will begin to sink in.

As it does, the exaltation will slowly turn to regret – just as it did watching each play of the final 13 seconds and overtime of January’s agonizing playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Though a study commissioned by the team itself pointed to downtown as the best option, team owner Pegula Sports & Entertainment was hellbent on building next to the existing facility in Orchard Park. And politicians handing over the lion’s share of the $1.4 billion cost acquiesced as meekly as the Bills defense.

Now, like shellshocked fans trying to salvage something........

© The Buffalo News

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