BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Andre Reed is lending his Hall of Fame pedigree to a fan group trying to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
The former Bills star receiver was one of 14 members named to the Buffalo Fan Alliance advisory board Monday. The alliance was formed two years ago and is made up of local business leaders offering to raise funds to help the franchise’s next owner offset costs.
“I’m going to use that platform any way I can to gain more speed for this alliance to keep the team here,” said Reed, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. “For a guy like Ralph Wilson, who made my life so good, it’s kind of an obligation for me to give back to what Ralph started there in Buffalo.”
Reed was referring to the Bills owner and founder, whose death last month left the franchise’s long-term future uncertain.
The Bills, valued at $870 million, will be put up for sale, raising the possibility of the team relocating. Toronto and Los Angeles are regarded as potential suitors.
Among those joining Reed on the advisory board are former Bills kicker Steve Christie, former New York Giants receiver Phil McConkey, who is from Buffalo, and NBC correspondent Luke Russert, who’s late father Tim was from Buffalo and was a major Bills backer.
Reed referred to the Bills as part of the fabric of western New York, and integral to the region’s identity and Wilson’s legacy.
“He could have moved that team any time he wanted to, but his allegiance to the city was very, very strong,” Reed said. “There isn’t a scenario that I can imagine that would not include the Bills franchise in Buffalo.”
The alliance’s objective is raising up to $170 million, which would be made available as an interest-free loan. It’s estimated that the savings from the loan would be as much as $14 million annually.
The alliance is registered as a nonprofit group, and would not be involved directly in an ownership group because NFL guidelines bar community ownership of teams except for the Green Bay Packers. The alliance has also retained a law firm with NFL connections to ensure the loan would meet the league’s business guidelines and not trigger public disclosure requirements or require approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Alliance spokesman Matt Sabuda said the group expects to begin raising money this summer.
“One thing want to emphasize is it’s not a silver bullet, not a be-all, end-all,” he said. “But it can make a significant difference in making the Bills viable by tapping into the ex-pat Bills fan-base around the country.”
New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, the family of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi are among those with ties to prospective ownership groups.
The Bills are essentially locked into playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2019 season because of the lease they negotiated with the state and county in December 2012.
The sale price is regarded as an obstacle in keeping the Bills in Buffalo, the NFL’s second-smallest TV market. Ownership groups would have an opportunity to generate more revenue in larger regions.