Bills grandiose stadia plans boast 60 suites



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Buffalo Bills propose new stadium by 2027 Image: Channel Daily News

The National Football League (NFL) team Buffalo Bills’ (US) proposed new $1.4 billion stadium would include about 60,000 seats and 60 suites.

The ‘Associated Press’ stated that Bills’ proposal includes a timeline for construction with a completion date pegged for no later than 2027 based on how quickly a deal can be struck. However, the plan has not been made public.

The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football team based in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area (US). They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s American Football Conference East division. The team plays its home games at the Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

The 71,870-capacity Highmark Stadium is a stadium near Orchard Park, New York, in the southern portion of the Buffalo metropolitan area. The stadium opened in 1973 and is the home venue of the Buffalo Bills of the NFL.

The proposed new stadium would be built on a Bills-controlled parking lot located directly across the street from their facility. This would allow the team to continue playing home games in Orchard Park, New York, until the new stadium is completed.

The ‘Associated Press’ further stated that the team’s current lease expires in July 2023 and would be extended until the new facility is opened, should the project be approved by the State of New York and Erie County.

The proposed capacity is about 12,000 seats less than the Bills’ current facility, now called Highmark Stadium, which was built in 1973. The new venue would not include a roof, but it would be so designed that a majority of the seats would be protected from the elements.

The team initially considered a larger stadium with a price-tag of $1.6 billion before making a decision to shrink the project.

Discussions between the Bills’ parent company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, and Government officials opened in late May, with the parties holding an on-site tour at the Bills’ aging home last week.

At issue are how quickly a deal can be approved, and how the construction costs would be split between the team and the taxpayers. The Bills have already said team owners Terry and Kim Pegula are committed to sharing part of the cost, but have not identified how much.

The expectation is the State and county will be asked to cover more than 50 percent of the project, raising concerns about the potential for taxpayer funding.

The Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE’s) proposal is considered preliminary and subject to change based on discussions, with no renderings of the proposed facility having yet been submitted. Talks have been slowed in part because of New York’s change in Governor, with Kathy Hochul taking over recently following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.

Hochul is from Buffalo, and has already had contact with PSE officials.

Her office sent out a statement which read, “No one is more committed to keeping the Bills in Buffalo than Governor Kathy Hochul, a longtime Buffalo Bills fan. Negotiations are ongoing, and her administration looks forward to sharing details with the public as soon as negotiations are completed.”

The $1.6 billion cost of the NFL teams New York Giants and New York Jets’ shared facility of MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010, was entirely privately-funded. The NFL team Minnesota Vikings’ $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016, had taxpayers fund 45.2 percent of the cost.

In Orchard Park, Highmark Stadium’s $22 million construction tab in the early 1970s was picked up entirely by taxpayers.

The Bills have ruled out the option of further renovations because they would be cost prohibitive in comparison to starting fresh.

More than $130 million was committed to renovations as part of the previous lease agreement struck in 2013. A State-commissioned study conducted a year later projected the next round of renovations would cost $540 million, with a majority of the work dedicated to essentially rebuilding the entire third deck. That cost is projected to be much higher in today’s dollars.

The Pegulas, who purchased the Bills in 2014, say they have spent an additional $146 million on capital and gameday and stadium-related expenses, which included suite upgrades, a new training facility and expansion of practice fields.

As part of a PSE-funded study launched in 2018, the team conducted an extensive analysis focusing on three potential stadium sites in and around Buffalo before opting to propose building the facility on a team-controlled parking lot across the street from its current home.

The two other locations considered were on the University at Buffalo campus North of the City, and a downtown site on the land where the abandoned Perry Projects sit empty. The projected cost of a downtown stadium came to $1.9 billion, not including necessary infrastructure upgrades.

PSE has since hired Legends Global Planning, a stadium consulting firm controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the New York Yankees. Also hired was a division of the company, Legends Global Sales, to oversee selling sponsorships and seat licensing for the prospective new stadium.

PSE’s submission includes an economic impact study, which concludes the team generates $361 million annually to the regional economy.

Sports economists have pushed back on how much of an impact sports facilities have on local economies, and question whether taxpayers should share the burden of the costs. That especially involves NFL stadiums because of the limited number of dates they are open based on the NFL’s 17-game regular season schedule, University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson said.

Added Sanderson, “The answer is zero: Sports stadiums are no catalysts for economic development. They just largely enrich the team and the league and the owner of the franchise.”

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