Ceremonial groundbreaking ushers in new era for Bills

Terry Pegula: "Ralph, we're moving across the street"

Orchard Park, N.Y. (WBEN/WGR 550) - "Ralph, we're moving across the street."

Terry Pegula's comment Monday was one humorous moment in what was, occasionally, an emotional groundbreaking ceremony for the new Buffalo Bills stadium in Orchard Park.

Along with the Bills owner, several other members from the organization, New York State and Erie County gathered at the expansive site along Abbott Road to commemorate the start of construction of the $1.54 billion state-of-the-art football stadium over the next three years.

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Taxpayer money is funding $850 million of the tab.

"What a great day for us to be here today as we celebrate a monumental event in the history of the Buffalo Bills franchise in our entire community," said Buffalo Bills Executive Vice President and COO, Ron Raccuia.

"The new stadium is not going to be only the home of our beloved Buffalo Bills, but it's going to be a place where our friends and families will come together and enjoy memories that last a lifetime. A stadium, as Terry said, built for Buffalo. This public private partnership has been a collaborative effort from day one. The many in attendance today are owed a tremendous amount of thanks and gratitude from our organization and our community."

One-by-one, the dignitaries on stage grabbed the awaiting gold-plated shovels to toss a shovel of dirt to mark the occasion that capped off years of negotiation.

"This place is not going to just represent a fantastic state of the art facility, it [will] represent dreams to be realized and memories to be made and stories to be told. And, of course, many, many victories to be celebrated. It also is going to be a battleground. It's gonna be a battleground against all those other teams that dare step into our stadium," said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The new home of the Bills will be known as Highmark Stadium, as Pegula announced the extension of the naming rights deal into the new stadium era.

"I want to thank Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. I'm proud to say we have a new long-term naming rights deal and their name will shine on our new stadium for years to come," Pegula said.

Amidst all the pomp and circumstance and political thank yous, there was a poignant and emotional moment as Pegula read the names of some heroes in the community, the victims of the Tops shooting.

Pegula also made note of his wife and co-owner Kim Pegula as his "shining star", as she continues to recover from an illness.

Both Gov. Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz made mention of the 10,000-plus local union jobs coming as a result of this stadium deal.

"The future is now being placed in the hands of the men and women of our local building trades. Those who exemplify the blue collar Buffalo spirit like no other, you will now write the next chapter and many chapters of the story. As you construct the home for our beloved team, please take pride in your work and know that you built the home that is going to be the location of the Buffalo Bills for the next 30 years," said Poloncarz.

New Bills stadium groundbreaking
New Bills stadium groundbreaking Photo credit Max Faery - WBEN
Featured Image Photo Credit: Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills)