BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Erie County Legislature needs to stamp its approval on the new Bills lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium. But County Executive Mark Poloncarz is hoping for legislators to make a statement.
Poloncarz said, "I'm hoping it's just a procedural issue at this point, and I'm hoping it will be a unanimous vote of the Erie County Legislature."
He believes a unanimous vote would reflect the county's commitment to keeping the Bills in Western New York long term. A lot of the questions legislators asked Poloncarz and Bills leaders about the lease concerned the team's long-term plans.
Bills President Russ Brandon said, "I think that goes unsaid. Ralph Wilson has been committed to this region for 50 years and we look forward to being committed for 50 more."
Poloncarz expects the Erie County Legislature to approve the lease at its January 24 meeting. That date is important so the NFL owners can approve it at their meeting over Super Bowl week in February.
The owners' approval will allow renovations to begin on the Ralph. Bills leaders told legislators they'll start with maintenance that has been deferred. Then, hopefully still in 2013, they can begin on a new operations facility and upgraded team store.
Legislators asked questions about whether other ideas were considered during lease negotiations. But they seemed pretty across the board supportive of the agreement.
"But I think it's important we send a message to New York state and the NFL that this has the strong support of every member of the Erie County Legislature, regardless of political party," Poloncarz said. "So I hope on the 24th, when the final vote is cast, I hope it is unanimous."
The Bills will have a stadium architect at the Ralph on Thursday to give everyone a clearer picture of the upgrades that will be done to the stadium.
As part of the lease, a stadium working group has been formed that includes county and state leaders and representatives from the Bills. However Poloncarz says they probably won't be considering a new stadium until these renovations will be done, which won't be until year 4 or 5 of the lease.
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