ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Bills, New York State and Erie County agreed on a deal to build a new football stadium in Orchard Park, as well as a new lease agreement that ties the team to Western New York for 30 years.
Here’s an overview on what we know about the agreement.
What does the new Bills stadium cost, and how much are taxpayers paying?
The new stadium has a projected price tag of $1.4 billion – the same price Terry Pegula paid to buy the team in 2014.
Here is the financial breakdown from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office:
- $600 million from New York
- $250 million from Erie County
- $550 million combined from the NFL and the Bills
“We got a very good deal” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, adding that any cost overruns will be paid by the Bills.
Poloncarz said there will not be tax increases due to the stadium deal.
Is this the largest public stadium subsidy in history?
Yes, it is believed to be.
The Raiders’ $1.97 billion stadium that opened in 2020 contained $750 million in public funding. Even if you adjust for inflation, the Bills’ number is higher.
What does a 30-year lease mean?
A 30-year lease means the Bills are committed to play in Erie County into the mid-2050s.
The key item to watch for is the non-relocation agreement. A major financial penalty for moving the team is what gives muscle to the lease agreement — if the number is too low, the Pegulas (or other future owners) could move the team by paying a fee.
Poloncarz said in a press conference that he feels the non-relocation agreement is “very, very strong” and said he expects the team to remain here under the terms.
“The terms for the non-relocation agreement are very, very strong. They have to stay,” Poloncarz said. “If by chance they broke the lease, and a court allowed them to break the lease, then they’d have to pay us back. And they’d have the demolish the new stadium, if the state so wanted. It’s basically a very penal position, and that’s why I feel very confident that the Bills are going to be here for decades.”
Where is the stadium going to go?
The new stadium is expected to be built across the street from the current one on Abbott Road in Orchard Park. The exact location is not yet finalized.
When will the new stadium open?
The Bills are shooting for the opening of the 2026 season. 2027 had also been discussed. The Bills will continue playing in the current stadium in the meantime.
The team’s current lease to play in Erie County ends in 2023. County Executive Mark Poloncarz says they are currently working on an extension of the lease to cover the period between 2023 and when the new stadium opens.
Why isn’t the stadium going in the City of Buffalo?
That is a complicated question, but the short answer is: That ship has sailed. Many in Western New York advocated for a stadium inside the city in recent months, specifically at the South Park site, but the planning and financial backing for this plan did not get the momentum they needed.
A state-funded study found the cost of a stadium in Buffalo to be about $2.1 billion and said it would take longer to build.
Is the stadium a dome or open-air?
All signs point to an open-air stadium. Despite Buffalo’s climate, the team consistently expressed it did not want a dome or retractable roof, which would have been more expensive. Some sections of seats are expected to be covered.
In a study New York State had done by AECOM, the cost of constructing a stadium with a roof was given. The consultants said building a stadium with a roof on it would cost $298 million extra, while building a stadium that could eventually support a roof in the future (if one was desired but the funding for it could not be secured) was $109 million extra.
Keeping the costs down as low as possible appeared to be a goal of the team throughout the process.
What’s next in the process?
With an agreement reached, both local and state governments need to sign off on the spending. The state now needs to pass its budget – which is due by Friday – and the Erie County Legislature needs to approve the expenditure, which could come within the next month.
When will they start building the new stadium?
Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive Ron Raccuia said there will be some breaking of ground on the new site in the coming weeks, but a true groundbreaking with “a big hole in the ground” is expected by next spring, in April or May 2023.
What is the stadium capacity?
The stadium will have a minimum capacity of 60,000, which is less than the current stadium. There could also be standing-room-only areas.
Will the new Bills stadium have PSLs?
Yes, PSLs are expected. A Personal Seat License is an additional expense for the right to purchase season tickets, on top of the cost of the tickets.
The cost of the PSL is expected to be proportional to the cost of the ticket. PSLs could start at $1,000 per seat. Money raised through PSLs goes toward ownership’s contribution to the stadium.
Season tickets will not account for every seat in the stadium.
“We’re always very aware of the market limitations and not over pricing our fans, especially as we move into a new stadium,” Raccuia told the team website. “PSLs are an integral part of every new stadium construction project. They will be part of our project as well, but we will never get to the point where we price our fans out of attending our games. As I said earlier, the most important thing for us is to create the best homefield advantage we possibly can.”
What will the stadium look like? Are there renderings?
There are no renderings yet, but the team has hired an architect. PSE’s Ron Raccuia said the team is still meeting with fans to get a feel for their desires on the stadium and renderings could come in about three months.
The stadium is expected to have some sections covered and have a grass field.
Could Buffalo get a Super Bowl now?
That is highly unlikely. Buffalo is not believed to have the required infrastructure to host a Super Bowl, such as the requisite number of hotel rooms in the region.
What will happen to the old stadium?
The expectation has been that the old stadium will be demolished once the new one is built. However, Raccuia told the team site, “That’s still to be determined and will be discussed moving forward. Stay tuned.”
What is the stadium’s name?
The name of the new stadium is not official yet, but Highmark has right of first refusal on the naming rights.
Who owns the stadium?
The current stadium is owned by Erie County and subsequently leased to the state and sub-leased to the Bills. Poloncarz said the new stadium will be owned by the state, not the county.
How many jobs will this create?
Both Poloncarz and Hochul said 10,000 construction jobs could be created over the life of the stadium.
When might we see the documents?
Probably not for a while. Poloncarz mentioned all the contracts need to be entered into by Sept. 1.
Could other sports play in the stadium?
Yes. Poloncarz called the 1.35 million-square-foot stadium a multi-use facility and specifically mentioned trying to get international soccer games at the new stadium.
Are upgrades to the Sabres arena included in this deal?
Upgrades to KeyBank Center were not discussed as part of this deal. Raccuia was asked if the Sabres or any other PSE property were for sale – he said no.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here