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Hawley: Genesee was on Bills owner's radar in 1990s

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Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 2:54 am | Updated: 9:29 pm, Fri May 16, 2014.

Add Steve Hawley’s name to the list of public officials who believe Genesee County should be the new home of the Buffalo Bills.

The state Assemblyman for New York’s 39th District, R-Batavia, said he sent a letter last month to Mary Wilson, widow of the late Bills’ owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., to promote Genesee County as a possible site for a new football stadium.

“I’m strongly in favor of having the Bills consider our area, our Genesee and Orleans counties area,” Hawley wrote in his letter.

Hawley said his letter to Mrs. Wilson was a follow-up to two he’d previously sent to Mr. Wilson. Hawley’s first letter to Mr. Wilson was mailed out in the early 1990s, when Hawley was a Genesee County legislator and the Bills were in the middle of their glory years, with four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

Hawley said Mr. Wilson called him “and said he’d keep it in mind.”

Hawley sent a second letter to the Bills owner in 2006 and received the same response.

Hawley made his comments in response to this week’s media reports that local developer Tony Mancuso submitted a proposal to build a new football stadium off Route 98, north of the Thruway, in the town of Batavia.

A state site selection panel has hired a consulting firm, AECOM, to research possible Western New York locations for a stadium. There is also the option of upgrading the Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.

However, the lease agreement between the Bills and Erie County for the rent of The Ralph contains what in the business world is called a poison pill — the team has to pay $400 million if it leaves Erie County before the contract expires.

Other local officials who spoke favorably of the concept of the Buffalo Bills becoming the Batavia Bills include Town Supervisor Greg Post, County Manager Jay Gsell and Batavia City Manager Jason Molino. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Center also voiced support for the initiative.

Mancuso, president and CEO of Batavia-based Mancuso Commercial Realty, said this week that approximately 600 acres is available on which a new stadium could be constructed.

AECOM is slated to submit a draft report to the site selection panel by June 17.

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