The Buffalo Bills get approval for a 30-year lease for a new stadium

Alina GetzenbergESPNMay 4, 2023, 02:54 PM ET3 minutes to read

BUFFALO, NY — After years of working on a new stadium deal for the Buffalo Bills, the final step to move forward with construction was taken Thursday with the 11-member Erie County Legislature unanimously approving the deal for a 30-year lease.

The new stadium is scheduled to open in 2026. The main construction work on the project is scheduled to start in June.

We want to thank the governor [Kathy] Hochul, District Executive Director and all of our public sector partners for successfully completing this process,” Bills Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Rakoya said in a statement. All legal agreements and public-private partnerships with the county and state are signed. There are no more documents. All focus is now on the construction and opening of the stadium, which will begin immediately.”

The vote came exactly one month after the bills and New York State and Erie County signed all documents on the bill. The legislature then had 30 days to review those documents, and the deal is largely expected to pass.

“As much as everyone would like to think the Bills never move, there was always a risk that a small market and larger markets were interested in the team,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncars said after signing the documents. “So, because of the tremendous work of so many, including from the Pegulas, I can guarantee you that this team will be here for the rest of my life and everyone will be able to cheer for the Buffalo Bills for decades to come.”

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The final negotiation deadline has been pushed back several times with unforeseen events in the past year, including co-owner Kim Pegula suffering a cardiac arrest in June 2022 and several historic snowstorms in Buffalo.

The original cost of the stadium was $1.4 billion, with the state and county responsible for $850 million in community funding for the project—the largest amount of public funds for an NFL stadium at the time. Since then, the Tennessee Titans have surpassed that with over $1.2 billion in public funding committed to building a new dome stadium in Nashville.

The price of the new ballpark in Buffalo has already increased to $1.54 billion, but Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are responsible for covering any excess costs.

Documenting the new deal includes a community benefit agreement that includes the team investing at least $3 million annually in the community, with that amount adjusted each year by price index (subject to a maximum increase of 2.2% per year). This would result in an increase of more than $100 million over the terms of the lease.

It also includes a non-relocation agreement that contains language against the team even considering a move and says the Bills will not “accept any offer or proposal to move the team to a location other than the stadium.”

The Bills’ new home will be across the road from Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, where the team’s training facility is also located. The Bills are working with architecture firm Populous as well as with Legends, a consulting group working on stadium development.

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In March 2022, the NFL’s owners unanimously approved the Bills’ proposal for a new stadium, and the Bill formally reached an agreement with the state and Erie County for the $1.4 billion new stadium.

The outdoor stadium will be built on 242 acres, cover approximately 1.35 million square feet and have 60,000-62,000 seats, with the team moving to a personal seat licensing model for all season tickets to help with team funding. The stadium will not have a dome, but will include stacked seating and a hanging canopy to protect fans from the elements.

The canopy will cover 65% of the seats and help protect from wind and rain. You will work in conjunction with the stadium’s multi-dimensional perforated outer skin creating wind confusion to prevent swirling winds from reaching field level.

Highmark Stadium opened in 1973 and is the fourth oldest stadium in the NFL. The stadium’s current lease was set to expire in July, but now extends to 2028 with this agreement. The construction of the stadium was originally 100% publicly funded. New York State will own the new stadium.

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