ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s a done deal. The Bills are getting a new stadium.
On Monday, a source tells News 4 that NFL owners voted to approve a $200 million loan for a new Buffalo Bills stadium. It happened during the NFL Annual Meeting in Florida.
The massive loan comes from the NFL’s G4 program and was recommended by the league’s stadium and finance committees on Friday. Through the rules of the G4 program, Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula must, at minimum, contribute a matching amount.
But that’s only a dent in the cost of roughly $1.4 billion.
There had been speculation that the cost to taxpayers could be even more massive than it turned out to be, at roughly $1 billion, but Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said “it’s not an accurate number.”
According to an anonymous source who spoke with The Associated Press, $850 million in state and county tax money was the actual expectation — a record-breaking ask for taxpayer contributions to an NFL stadium.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office later confirmed this. Here’s the breakdown of how it’s getting funded.
- New York State: $600 million
- Erie County: $250 million
- NFL and Buffalo Bills: $550 million
“I went into these negotiations trying to answer three questions – how long can we keep the Bills in Buffalo, how can we make sure this project benefits the hard-working men and women of Western New York and how can we get the best deal for taxpayers?” Hochul said.
It’s a heavy cost, but the weight on taxpayers vs. other funding sources is less than what it was for the current stadium. Highmark Stadium was fully funded by the public when construction finished in 1973. Its 1998 renovations were, too.
This deal relies on 60.7 percent public funding. According to Gov. Hochul’s office, “the Bills generate $27 million annually in direct income, sales and use taxes for New York State, Erie County and Buffalo.”
In addition to this monumental deal, Monday’s agreement also means that the Bills are committed to staying in Buffalo for 30 years. That’s due to a non-relocation agreement keeping the team from moving.
If, through court, the team is allowed to move, the Bills must pay back the contributions made by the county and state in full during the 15 years of the Bills’ lease. That amount would be less in the latter 15 years, and the stadium would have to be demolished by the team.
“I’m pleased that after months of negotiations, we’ve come out with the best answers possible – the Bills will stay in Buffalo for another 30 years, the project will create 10,000 union jobs and New Yorkers can rest assured that their investment will be recouped by the economic activity the team generates,” Hochul said.
Poloncarz praised Monday’s deal, saying the Bills are “ingrained in the heart and soul of every Western New Yorker.” But he hopes the stadium deal can mean more than football.
During a conference, Poloncarz shared interest in also bringing soccer to Buffalo.
A person familiar with the situation tells News 4 that architecture firm Populous will be the ones building the new stadium. The plan is to create the next home of the Bills across from where Highmark Stadium currently sits, off Abbott Road.
Inside, there will be a minimum of 60,000 seats. Gov. Hochul’s office noted that this will be the largest construction project in western New York history.
And will it have a dome? That’s been one of the questions on many peoples’ minds, but Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott doesn’t care either way. In a conference that mostly focused on the players, old and new, McDermott commented that he just wants it to be “loud” in there.
“We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park,” Kim and Terry Pegula said. “We are grateful for the time, efforts and unwavering commitment made by Governor Hochul and her team throughout this process. While there are a few more yards to go before we cross the goal line, we feel our public-private partnership between New York State, Erie County led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the National Football League will get us there.”
Ownership of Highmark Stadium and the adjoining complex, which includes practice facilities and office space, will be transferred from the county to the state. The state will own the new stadium and adjoining complex, too, and it will be leased to the Buffalo Bills.