ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Bills will call Orchard Park home for 30 more years, which was a win for the Town of Orchard Park. Some officials in the town say it missed out on an opportunity for revenue when the last stadium was built. It doesn’t want to fumble this chance for growth.
There is little development around Highmark Stadium. Four restaurants take up the corners of Abbott Road, but there are no hotels within walking distance of the stadium. The area comprises several neighborhood streets and single family homes, too.
Don Lorentz, executive director of the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce, says the town loses out on revenue to neighboring suburbs and downtown Buffalo because it doesn’t have many amenities for fans traveling to the games.
“I think the fact that we have a fresh start, another 30 years committed. We have the state involved. We have the county involved. I think it’s time for Orchard Park to step up and be involved this time around,” Lorentz said.
Councilman Conor Flynn proposed rezoning the area to accommodate more commercial development, including mixed-use buildings, hotels, restaurants and retail space. The proposed “Special Overlay District” would only be near the new stadium and not in the Village of Orchard Park. The exact dimensions of the zone have not been discussed or proposed yet.
“Recognizing that area is fundamentally different than the rest of the town and zoning it appropriately for that I think is important,” Councilman Flynn said. “Nobody is coming to your cul-de-sac to build a hotel.”
View Councilman Flynn’s full proposal below:
The proposal is in the initial discussion phase. According to Flynn, there are other proposals up for consideration from other members of the town board. He says the town needs to decide on a scope for the area before changing any zoning codes and breaking ground. He added no developers have reached out to him as of this point.
Flynn says he modeled his proposal on some of the zoning codes from other NFL towns, including Foxboro, MA and Green Bay, Wisc. He is still workshopping it and welcomes public input.
Some residents that live near the stadium welcome the potential development, saying this section of Orchard Park has its own identity separate from the village and rest of the town.
“To keep pretending that this is somehow best for single family residences is ridiculous. We need more high density uses,” Mark Lester, owner of Yellow Brick Parking on Big Tree Road, said.
Lester says his family has owned his home for three generations and was in Orchard Park before the stadium was built. He has embraced the stadium and says the town should take advantage of the opportunity. He says he owns two acres on Abbott Road that he hopes to use for future development, if the town allows him to pursue it.
“This area has changed. This is an east-west corridor that should be used for commercial purposes,” Lester added.
Lorentz says the Bills are not considering putting a hotel on their property until after the stadium opens in 2026. He believes the town needs to act sooner to make Orchard Park a destination.
“If we start something now with local developers and really get things going, we could have it for the 2026 season. We could probably already have it in place. On opening day, people would be in Orchard Park enjoying everything it had to offer,” Lorentz says.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.