Negotiators keep Bills' lease talks behind doors

October 4, 2012 Updated Oct 4, 2012 at 7:13 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink

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October 4, 2012 Updated Oct 4, 2012 at 7:13 AM EDT

Talks between the Buffalo Bills, Erie County and New York state continue to move forward, but no one is willing to commit to a timetable about when the closely-watched negotiations will be completed.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, a key player in the complex negotiations, said the talks are progressing, but he declined to go into details Wednesday, citing confidentiality clauses all three parties have agreed to as part of the negotiations.

"All sides have had productive discussions," Duffy said. "If any progress is made and needs to be made public, we will do it collectively as a team."

The Bills lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium expires on July 31, 2013. Officials had hoped to have a new, long term lease in place by the end of this year, but it now appears talks will last until sometime in 2013.

The lease talks has a number of issues including who pays - and how much - of the estimated $220 million in renovations needed to the 39-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium. Both New York and Erie County want assurances that the Bills will remain in Buffalo for years to come.

"We want to keep the Bills in Western New York," Duffy said. "We do not want them to leave."

This is of importance given the fact that Bills owner Ralph Wilson is 93 and, in late August, was hospitalized for several days. Wilson has said the team will remain in Buffalo during his lifetime, but it will be up to his heirs and estate to determine its future beyond that.

In early September, both the Bills and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz expressed concerned that there hadn't been a face-to-face three-way meeting between all of the parties since last June.

Duffy said New York has been aggressively part of the lease talks and will continue to be part of the negotiations. He reiterated that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other top-level state officials are willing to fly to Michigan to meet with Wilson and his top aides.

"We stand by that offer to go anyway," Duffy said.

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