BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Bills are on the verge of getting a new, $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park. Here’s how people at home and around the state are reacting:
Owners of the Buffalo Bills Terry and Kim Pegula said, “We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. 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.”
County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “The Buffalo Bills are ingrained in the heart and soul of every Western New Yorker. It was essential that we entered into an agreement that ensured the team stayed in Buffalo, but was also a fair deal for the people of Erie County and New York. That is exactly the agreement that has been reached: the Bills will play in Buffalo for the next 30 years; 10,000 building trades union jobs will work on the project; and the county will no longer contribute annual operating and capital expenses, thereby saving county taxpayers tens of millions through the life of the lease. Thank you to Governor Kathy Hochul, as well as Terry and Kim Pegula, for working very hard these past months to reach an equitable agreement for all.”
The share of public financing is reduced from previous stadium deals. In 1973, the construction of Highmark Stadium was 100 percent publicly financed, as was the 1998 renovation and training facility construction. 73 percent of the 2013 renovation was publicly financed. This proposal includes just 60.7 percent public financing, well below other recent NFL stadium deals in comparable markets. The State share is 43 percent.
The 30-year agreement details the construction of a new stadium with a minimum of 60,000 seats in Orchard Park, Erie County to be designed and constructed by the Buffalo Bills. The deal includes a commitment from the Bills to play at the new stadium for the next 30 years. The Bills will begin design of the new stadium immediately, and all parties will begin negotiations on extending the team’s current lease for Highmark Stadium that expires in 2023.
The stadium project is projected to create approximately 10,000 construction jobs and will be constructed using union labor in accordance with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The Bills will negotiate a PLA with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Buffalo, New York and Vicinity, AFL-CIO, on behalf of its affiliated local unions. The deal requires the Bills to agree to a Community Benefits Agreement, which is to be negotiated.
Erie County will transfer ownership of the current stadium and adjoining complex, which includes practice facilities and office space, to the State. The State will own the new stadium and adjoining complex, which will be leased to the Bills. In the event the Bills default on the agreement, the State and County have the right to go to court to enforce non-relocation terms. The new stadium can be used for civic purposes, such as, if necessary, vaccination delivery and election operations – as well as in emergencies.
President of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council Gary LaBarbera said, “We want to thank Governor Hochul, the Pegula family, and Buffalo Bills for making union labor the focal point of the new Bills Stadium construction project. The new Bills Stadium will create 10,000 good paying union jobs, and after two difficult years of the pandemic, this public-private investment is exactly what’s needed for hard working families in Western New York. On behalf of the 200,000 tradespeople we represent across the state, New York State Building and Construction Trades Council is proud to support this project, and our members look forward to getting to work and keeping the Bills in Western New York.”
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “We thank Governor Hochul for fulfilling her promise to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York. It is a much-needed investment in the region that will create opportunities for workers to continue to live and work in and around the stadium for years to come. The revenue generated by the business community and the workers will strengthen our tax base and allow us to continue to provide the public services across the state that we all rely on. We are proud that the stadium will be built by union labor, the most highly trained, highly skilled workforce in the country, which will allow us to enjoy the stadium for generations to come.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We are pleased with the tremendous progress that has been made on a plan that will provide Bills fans the world-class facility they deserve in western New York. We appreciate the extraordinary leadership and partnership of Governor Hochul, Senator Schumer, and Erie County Executive Poloncarz. We will continue to work closely with them and the Pegulas to make this exciting vision a reality. The Pegulas have continued to demonstrate their commitment to Buffalo, a market that has supported the NFL for generations. This new stadium will further provide the foundation to help the Bills remain competitive in western New York for decades to come.”
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Hope Knight said, “The Bills are an enormous economic driver for Western New York and beyond. The clock was ticking on Bills stadium talks with the future of the team and millions of dollars in revenue hanging in the balance — but like the best quarterbacks, Governor Hochul made the game-winning drive to keep the Bills in Buffalo. I congratulate everyone who recognized the importance of having the Bills in New York State for the mutual benefit of fans, businesses and municipalities.”
State Senator Sean Ryan said, “The Buffalo Bills have been ingrained into the spirit of Western New York for generations. Through the bad times and the good times, we have all had the shared experience of cheering on our hometown team. As we embark upon a new era for the Bills, I know we are all thankful their presence in WNY has been secured for decades to come – while bringing in a once in a generation union labor project. I thank Governor Hochul and County Executive Poloncarz for working hard to make this day possible, and structuring a long-term deal that repays state taxpayers for their upfront investment.”
State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “The Buffalo Bills are part of who we are as a community. I applaud Governor Hochul and County Executive Poloncarz on ensuring the Bills remain in Buffalo, where they rightfully belong. This strategic investment will continue to fuel our economy, create opportunities for our workforce, and generate renewed national interest in our region and state.”
Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Congratulations to all of the negotiating parties on reaching a new stadium deal to keep our beloved Buffalo Bills in WNY. I look forward to reviewing the terms and details of the agreement while working towards establishing a community benefits agreement to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity for advancement.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said,”I want to congratulate Governor Hochul on successfully negotiating a new stadium deal that ensures our beloved Buffalo Bills remain in Western New York. Thank you Governor Hochul, Erie County Executive Poloncarz, Terry and Kim Pegula and NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell for working together to keep Buffalo an NFL city for the foreseeable future.”
Sochie Nnaemeka, Director of the New York Working Families Party, has issued the following statement: “The Bills stadium deal is a continuation of trickle-down economic development schemes that have enriched wealthy investors on the backs of Black, brown, and working class communities. Our public dollars should be going toward public goods, and not subsidizing an oil billionaire’s new stadium.”
Bills Stadium Negotiations
- Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin discusses Bills stadium community benefits agreement
- Public has first opportunity to comment on new Bills stadium plans
- Future of Hammer’s Lot in new Bills stadium plans
- State to take almost 250 acres for new Bills stadium, including ECC open space
- The search for community benefits to the Bills stadium deal
* * *
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.