ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills, Erie County and New York State have reached an agreement to build a new $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The governor said the agreement secures a 30-year commitment to keep the Bills in Western New York. The new stadium will be a minimum of 60,000 seats and will be designed and constructed by the Bills. The design process will start immediately along with negotiations to extend the team's current lease for Highmark Stadium, which is set to expire in 2023.
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. 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.
The $1.4 billion price tag will be covered by a public-private partnership.
A $550 million commitment from the Bills and the NFL was approved by NFL owners Monday. This includes a loan known around the league as a G4 loan, which gives NFL owners the ability to finance the private portion of stadium construction development up to $200 million. Governor Hochul will advance a $600 million proposal in the state budget and Erie County will contribute $250 million. This means that taxpayers are anticipated to be on the hook for $850 million in public funds, as first reported by the Associated Press.
According to a report from the New York Times, the $850 million in public funds is the largest taxpayer contribution ever for a pro football facility.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the Bills will be responsible for any cost overruns beyond the proposed cost and will be required to demolish the current stadium once the new one is built. Erie County, which owns the current stadium, will transfer ownership of the current stadium and adjoining complex to the state. The state will then own the new stadium and adjoining complex and lease to the Bills.
According to the governor's office, the Bills generate $27 million annually for the state, county and Buffalo which will amount to $1.6 billion over the 30-year agreement.
Hired to design the stadium is architecture firm Populous, whose portfolio includes Gillette Stadium (New England), TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville) and State Farm Stadium (Arizona) among others. The stadium could be open for the 2026 season, but there is no timetable on when they will break ground at this point.
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.
According to the governor's office, 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.
You can find an FAQ from the Bills on the new stadium here.
Ron Raccuia of Pegula Sports and Entertainment spoke to reporters about the deal during the NFL owners meetings on Monday.
How we got here
Planning for the new stadium dates back to 2013, when the Bills, NYS and Erie County agreed to a 10-year lease with renovations for Highmark Stadium.
The agreement included a “New Stadium Advisory Group,” formed to explore the potential for construction of a new stadium at the current location or at a new site within Erie County.
The group met for the first time in April, 2014 — just days after the death of Ralph C. Wilson Jr., owner and founder of the Buffalo Bills.
In 2015, AECOM, retained by the state, released a report suggesting potential locations for a new stadium.
Fast forward to 2018, it is announced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that the Pegula’s are in the early stages of stadium talks.
Later that year Pegula Sports & Entertainment hired CAA Icon to create a stadium feasibility study. Over the next three years, CAA Icon would create several studies and development plans for PSE.
In August 2021, a PSE spokesperson made it clear that major renovations were not in the cards for Highmark Stadium.
Just weeks later, the Bills proposed a 60,000-seat stadium in Orchard Park to the state and county.
The team's current lease at Highmark Stadium expires in July of 2023. The current agreement will continue on the Bills lease at Highmark Stadium while negotiations begin on a lease extension.