The Buffalo Bills just went through a season that saw a first-year head coach help bring the team to the playoffs, erasing a 17-season drought without the postseason -- with many of their nine victories coming in the comfy confines of New Era Field.
Although signed through the next several years on a lease with the existing stadium, there is now at least a little momentum towards a potential new facility -- or at least what comes after the current lease. Although little information was spilled, there was a notable change in tone from one year to the next at the NFL Owner's Meetings.
In his annual address at the event, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke in front of several reporters, and was asked if there are any updates on the future of New Era Field or in the potential building of a new stadium. Goodell deferred, but in doing so, also offered up that there was at least some forward motion as opposed to last year.
"I think those [updates] are better coming from the Pegulas whenever they want to share that with the community," the NFL commissioner said. "I think they’re in the very early stages."
When speaking with reporters on Tuesday, co-owner Terry Pegula was asked about the end of the current lease with New Era Field, to which his tone was notably different from the 2017 Owner's Meetings.
"I'm going to give you the same poker answer," Pegula said, according to BuffaloBills.com. "We talk about that heavily internally, but not publicly."
At the same event last year, Pegula was starkly against any and all discussion, even downplaying talk of a new stadium.
“The state just got through with a rather expensive renovation on the stadium. I don’t think it’s our place to make demands and ask for things right now," Pegula said in Phoenix one year ago. "We have a lease on our stadium until 2023, and we’re looking forward to the football season and not talking about stadiums."
However, at the same time last year, there was a hint that something more than just the current lease with New Era Field was on the horizon.
"Buffalo’s fans are legendary and rank right up there with the greatest fans in the NFL. Ownership there is evaluating their options and those options are very long-term in nature," NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said in March of 2017.
The current lease with New Era Field is set to expire in 2023, giving the Pegulas around five years to figure out a plan of attack for what they want to do.
Joe B's Take
Last March, after Terry Pegula was quick and eager to downplay the talk of a new stadium, it made sense from a business sense. While they needed to keep an eye on what to do in the future, they were still in the first half of a lease in which public funding helped them make millions of dollars of renovations to New Era Field.
There was a clear notion, and really, good business sense to not try to upset and bite the hand that fed them, so to speak, in thinking that they were just going to publicly position themselves to ask for even more funding to work on a new stadium.
However, we are now at the halfway point of the lease. With the expiration set for 2023, if the Pegulas are intent on building a new facility, the time and energy needs to be put into those efforts well ahead of the time of expiration to have it built and operational either by the time the lease is done, or shortly after with a quick short-term renegotiation to stay there while a new stadium is being built.
In regards to a new facility -- and whether or not the Bills will actually build one, I will always go back to when Terry and Kim Pegula were ratified by the NFL as the team's new owners in October of 2014. Most every single other owner that came out and met with the media during those meetings insinuated that they had an eventual plan to build a new stadium in Buffalo.
The year 2023, and the end of the lease with the current stadium, is now on the horizon. With little comments from both Goodell, and even Pegula this year just based on how the tone from last year has changed, the speculation will continue to ramp up as the days, months, and years pass by.