Patrick Freeman: The Most Vocal and Visible Advocate for a New Downtown Stadium
By Kenneth N. Robinson, M.S.
Special to The Challenger News
With the Buffalo Bills’ future in Western New York seemingly secure, given the advent of team owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who have voiced their commitment to keeping the team here, the next critical step will be the construction of a new stadium. When the NFL owners voted to approve the Pegulas as owners of the Bills, it was understood that a new stadium would eventually be built. This is customary for any new NFL owner, given the impact new stadiums have on the league’s overall value. Although, the new owners have expressed no urgency to build a new stadium, and neither has the state of New York, groups like the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex have remained vigilant with their advocacy and plans.
The most vocal and visible advocate for the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex has been Pat Freeman, or the “Mighty O’Ba”, as he is more commonly known. Freeman is the host of his own radio show and the sports director at Mix 1080 WUFO. His group has been exhaustive in their research and is confident they have identified a site that is “NFL ready”.
Freeman states that among the factors in determining an appropriate site, is, the amount of space available; ownership of the site; parking and traffic considerations; and whether the footprint will improve the economic formula necessary to sustain a small market franchise like the Bills.
After viewing several locations in the Buffalo area, such as the Commodore Perry projects, the South Park area, the Central Terminal, and the Cobblestone section of the city, Freeman’s group believes the most ideal site would be the Outer Harbor Land site. The location’s 210 acres of available land, with two additional parcels, all of which is publicly owned land, makes it more suitable, he notes. While infrastructure improvements are needed to facilitate a sufficient level of traffic and parking provisions, other preliminary accessibility changes are complete. The linking of Ohio Street and a Ferry boat running from the Inner and Outer Harbor, is expected to help, as well, the added Harbor bridge project, which is in the planning stages. When coupled with other capital improvements such as the building of bridges along Chicago and Louisiana streets, with linkages between Route 5 and Main Street, gives Buffalo the potential to create an all-access ports, world-class waterfront. This development would set the stage for a multi-use domed facility to include a hotel, a convention center, retail outlets, and a North America Interactive Museum of History of Sport and Culture by Strong Museum. The latter is expected to be large enough to house all of the WNY Hall of Fame locations. Freeman’s commitment to the proposal has been unyielding. He has secured over 3,000 signatures from a petition drive supporting his Outer Harbor proposal. Moreover, he also reports that the Buffalo Common Council has unanimously supported this proposal. He has secured 42 letters of support from various churches and community based organizations in Buffalo. The inclusion of the community’s input, is quite meaningful, as Freeman projects the new stadium complex will create upwards of 15,000 living wage jobs. He remains optimistic that his group, working in tandem with HKS Incorporated, forms one of the best design teams in the world. He believes that their proposal offers promise that a public and private partnership in building a new NFL stadium in downtown Buffalo will be a win-win for the Buffalo Bills and the community.