ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — With just three weeks until kickoff to the regular season, Pegula Sports and Entertainment is putting Highmark Stadium renovation rumors to bed.
“The debate on renovating the stadium is over,” said Jim Wilkinson, a spokesperson for PSE. “Now we move on to how do the Bills get a new stadium for a Championship winning franchise.”
Wilkinson says there is an unrealistic myth that somehow the existing Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park could be renovated. He says that is far from the truth, after an independent architecture firm, DiDonoto Associates, hired by Erie County found several glaring and expensive issues with the current structure.
This squashes any Downtown Buffalo rumors. That is now put to rest. https://t.co/u01xft0ok3— Hannah Buehler (@HannahBuehler) August 17, 2021
“The stadium has a lot of problems,” he said. “It’s 50 years old, and an independent engineering study says the upper deck is going to have to be replaced—$500 million, the electrical will have to be replaced, the water systems have to be replaced, the ringwall is in jeopardy. So all in, it would cost about $1 billion to renovate that stadium.”
And that’s just a $400 million difference from the $1.4 billion the Pegulas are seeking for a brand new stadium. Wilkinson confirms that the Pegulas want to build across from the existing stadium in Orchard Park.
Despite the report, he says Highmark is currently safe—and these are issues that, in the long term, would need to be addressed.
“It’s safe now and it’s only safe now because of the work of the county engineers, 365 days a year. The Pegulas have made it very clear that they’re not going to put money into a stadium they don’t own,” he said.
That’s because the current stadium in Orchard Park is owned by Erie County. The team’s current lease with Erie County expires in 2023.
“Would you put that kind of money into a house you don’t own?”
When asked about potential stadium renderings, Wilkinson says it’s too early to release that information. “I don’t want to get into that yet,” he said. “The first step is to make sure that everyone agrees that the new stadium needs to be there, which I think everyone does. It’s way too early to start talking about renderings and things like that,” he said.
The PSE spokesperson says talks with the state and county are happening behind closed doors.
“I think the next step is we’ll continue to meet, talk with the state and the county. Hopefully people come together and do what’s right for the community and the fans. It’s an exciting time with a winning football team, an amazing quarterback, fantastic coaching staff and owners who are committed to winning,” he said. “That’s where we are, and where we need to be is have a stadium that we can play in for a long time. Our position’s very clear, and we hope the other side will come with a good proposal,” he said.