ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County is set to transfer nearly 250 acres of land to New York State as part of an agreement between the Bills and those entities to build a new stadium in Orchard Park, documents unveiled Friday show.
The property line for the stadium complex would extend all the way to the Orchard Park-Hamburg town-line, which bisects the Erie Community College campus. About 56 of the 242 acres to be taken over by the state, which will own the new facility, cover open space and parking spots around the ECC campus.
However, none of the property containing ECC buildings would be transferred to the state for the stadium. An additional 41 acres around ECC – again, none that contain buildings – are part of the ‘project area plan’, and could be temporarily impacted by construction. However, county officials say when stadium construction is over, that land would be restored and returned to the college.
The county currently owns both the ECC property and stadium property. The land transfer will not require or include eminent domain, county officials insisted.
“It is exactly as I’ve said for quite some time that the plans are such that there would not be a building at the college taken. A lot of people thought they’d have to demolish buildings at the college. We said no we know we don’t have to do that,” County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Friday.
The documents were released Friday as Erie County began the required State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process. In May, the county legislature approved up to $266,084.54 for Phillips Lytle LLP to assist the county in its environmental review and permitting of the stadium.
Because the county is providing $250 million toward stadium construction and transferring the stadium property to New York State, it must conduct the environmental impact assessment. New York State is contributing an additional $600 million toward the $1.4 billion project.
An open scoping meeting has been scheduled for July 14 at the Bills fieldhouse. An additional public hearing is expected to take place in September. County officials hope to have the SEQR process completed by the end of the year.
A Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the team, State, and County in March says stadium construction is expected to start no later than April 1, 2023. Construction is expected to take 34 months. The Bills expect it will open for the 2026 season.
Other documents released Friday indicate the Bills have settled on a footprint for the 1.35 million square foot stadium. As expected, it is situated to the west of Abbott Road in Orchard Park. The facility is oriented from the north-northwest to south-southeast. An auxiliary facility will be built to the south of the stadium.
The fieldhouse and Bills store are among those the buildings that are expected to remain standing. The current stadium will be demolished and replaced with parking spaces. County officials expect demolition to take 6-8 months. It’s possible the current stadium is not completely demolished by the time the new stadium opens, drawing questions about parking through some of the first games there. A parking study is expected to address those issues.
They also cautioned that the design will be refined as the process moves forward.
“The actual plans for the stadium are still some time away. What we have is an identification of the size of the stadium and where it will be, but not actually where it will be,” Poloncarz continued.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.
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.