Milstein pulls out of Bills sweepstakes, but he has this large tract of land in Niagara Falls …

Milstein

The first high-profile withdrawal from the Buffalo Bills sweepstakes occurred Monday.

Deep-pocketed developer and banker Howard Milstein announced in a news release that he won’t be “participating in the sales process or making a bid” to buy the NFL franchise, as had been reported.

But he’s open to providing the land for a new stadium in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The Bills franchise likely will go on sale within the next month or so, following the death of founding owner Ralph Wilson in March.

Milstein, former part-owner of the NHL’s New York Islanders, unsuccessfully bid on the Washington Redskins in the late 1990s, following the death of Canadian owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Based in New York City, Milstein’s ties to Western New York include owning a 142-acre parcel of redevelopable land in Niagara Falls, adjacent to Seneca Niagara Casino on the east side, thus just blocks from the falls. The tract is bordered by John Day Blvd., Niagara Street, Portage Road and Buffalo Ave. (as shown by the red lines in my blurry photo, above, taken from my Air Canada flight back to Toronto on Sunday from the NFL draft in NYC).

“We are prepared to put substantial personal and business resources behind (the) effort (to keep the Bills in Western New York), including our land in Niagara Falls,” Milstein said in his statement.

“I look forward to working with all parties and any prospective buyers to help keep the Bills in upstate New York where they belong.”

Reports in Buffalo two weeks ago claimed Milstein likely would join the bid process.

The Bills’ current home (Ralph Wilson Stadium) is in Orchard Park, N.Y., south of Buffalo, as are the team’s headquarters and practice facilities.

The “New Stadium Working Group” — an advisory panel comprising team officials, local and state political honchos and business leaders with ties to Western New York — is charged with determining whether additional renovations to the Ralph would render it a long-term option, or a new stadium needs to be built. The group met for the first time on April 1. Its formation was mandated in the Bills’ restrictive new 10-year lease of Erie County-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium, signed last year by the Bills, the county and the state.

The group hasn’t, and won’t, tip its cards as to which way it might go. But in any event the group is slow-tracking. The three co-chairs have said the group might not produce a final report for two years. Bear in mind that that report won’t be binding in any way; it will merely advise the next owner of the Bills, the county and the state.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week said he believes a new stadium must be built. That will be the NFL’s position — you can take that to the investment bank — so any prospective new owner who might have hoped to wring 20 or more years out of the Ralph had better change tacks.

Two weeks ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hired sports stadium consultant Irwin Raij, of law firm Foley & Lardner LLP. Raij’s first charge is to fast-track a report by summer to identify the best new-stadium sites in the Buffalo/Niagara area. Milstein’s property, while outside Erie County, likely will be one of the sites chosen, especially considering Milstein, a billionaire, is a political ally of the governor’s and significant campaign contributor. What’s more, in 2011 Cuomo appointed Milstein as chairman of the New York State Thruway board of directors.

Meantime, the estate of Wilson has yet to publicly name an investment bank to oversee the sale.

 

 

 

 

Tyler Thigpen retained over Vince Young … again

If you’re one of those NFL fans who cannot understand why Vince Young isn’t on an NFL roster, know this. For the second time in three years he got cut before Tyler Thigpen.

LEEIn 2012 Thigpen, now 30, was retained by the Bills to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick, over Young, whom the team cut near the end of the training camp after a three-month audition.

Young’s latest audition lasted but 11 days.

On Monday, the Cleveland Browns cut him after signing both him and Thigpen on May 1. The Browns also announced the signing of former South Carolina QB Connor Shaw as an undrafted rookie free agent.

The Browns’ five quarterbacks now are Shaw, Thigpen, Brian Hoyer, first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel and Alex Tanney. In March the Browns released Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell.

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My photo of Vince Young throwing in OTAs with the Buffalo Bills two years ago, while then-QBs coach David Lee and starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick watch.

 

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