Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - After months of waiting, a deal has been announced on a deal for a new stadium and lease for the Buffalo Bills.
"Great day for Western New York, for the Bills, for the NFL," said Executive Vice President of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, Ron Raccuia on Monday while in Florida for the NFL Owners Meetings. "We're very thankful for Gov. Hochul, County Executive Poloncarz. This is a great first step. We still have more work to do, but we're excited with what we've accomplished so far."
"My children's children, my grandchildren will be able to enjoy football as well as their children. This is a long-term prospect for us, and answers the anxiety that many Western New Yorkers have is, will the Bills leave us? For the next 30 years, they're going to call Western New York their home," said Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday.
The deal includes a 30-year commitment for the Bills to remain in Buffalo, and a combined $550 million from the NFL and Bills, which was approved Monday by NFL owners. The Governor will advance a $600 million proposal in the state budget, and Erie County will contribute $250 million. That total share of publicly financing adds up to 60.7% of the funding required to build the stadium.
"Just comparing where we were in the past, when this stadium was originally built in 1973, 100% of that was financed by the public. Even the renovations in 1998, 100% financed by the public sector. And our financing back in 2013 when the renovations were made, that was 73%," Gov. Hochul explained. "We negotiated hard, we drove those numbers down, and now our state share is 43% and the public share overall is only 60.7%."
While an agreement is in place for a new Bills stadium, Raccuia says the State Legislature still has to approve the budget, and then the Erie County Legislature also has to go through their approval process.
The economic and tax impacts generated from the team will support more than 100% of the public share of the new stadium cost.
In addition, the project will create 10,000 union jobs, as well as generate $27 million in direct revenue to the state, that could result in their share of the funds paid off after 22 years of the 30-year agreement.
Monday's figures was revealed as the Bills presented their stadium proposal at the NFL Owners Meetings in Florida.
One significant difference with this deal for the Bills and the lease agreement going forward is a change in ownership of the stadium. No longer will Erie County be the owners of the property once the stadium is built and operational.
"The new stadium will not be owned by Erie County. It will be transferred, the land will be owned by New York State through the Erie County Stadium Corporation, and then leased to the Bills," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Monday. "The final lease, whatever it may be including for current facilities, will be from New York State to the Bills."
With this being the case, Poloncarz says the county will no longer contribute annual operating and capital expenses, thereby saving county taxpayers tens of millions of dollars through the life of the lease.
As for the potential timeline for shovels to get into the ground to start construction of a new stadium, Raccuia says there's really not a "break ground day."
"I think what people generally think of 'break ground' is [staring] next spring, but we've started working on this weeks and months ago," Raccuia said. "I think starting next week, there's some breaking of ground on the site. But I would say officially, you know, when there's a big hole in the ground, it's probably April or May of next year."
Raccuia says the team is still meeting with fans, with some of those talks going on later this week. The team will also be meeting with a lot of community stakeholders, as well.
As for the architectural firm hired for the design process, Raccuia confirmed it is Populous that will get the ball rolling.
"They're one of the best in the world," Raccuia said with confidence. "I think our fans are going to love this stadium. It's going to be built for the Bills, built for the Buffalo fans."
Raccuia says any renderings towards a new Bills stadium will be made available for the public as soon as the team has them in place.
As for what to expect for a new stadium, Raccuia confirms what has been reported of a new stadium in Buffalo for some time - A 60,000-62,000-seat capacity stadium, open-air stadium, and the location being across the street from the current stadium on Abbott Road. The Bills also plan to have 80% of seating in the stadium protected from the elements.
"I heard [head coach Sean McDermott] say today he wants it loud. Trust me, it will be loud. It will be intense, it will be intimate," Raccuia said. "It'll take a lot of the great features of Highmark [Stadium] right now, which is unbelievable sightlines, bring them over to the new stadium in a modern, state-of-the-art way."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is heralding the deal, stating, "This new stadium will further provide the foundation to help the Bills remain competitive in Western New York for decades to come."