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1/04/13 Bee News - In a Year of Accomplishments, 10-Year Lease Deal with Bills at Top


MARK POLONCARZ
January 4, 2013

In a year filled with accomplishments that include creating a Medicaid Anti-Fraud Unit, renewing our commitment to investing in our aging roads and parks, restoring the rodent control program, developing a plan to save taxpayers $2.6 million by refunding bonds, and exciting economic development progress at the former Bethlehem Steel and Spaulding Fibre sites; at the top of the list, is reaching a new 10-year stadium lease agreement with the Buffalo Bills.

From day one, a top priority of my administration has been to negotiate a stadium lease, which strikes a fair deal for state and local taxpayers and ensures the Bills remain in our community for years to come.  After many months of hard work, I was proud join Governor Andrew Cuomo and Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon in announcing we have accomplished that goal.

Everyone understood the economic realities facing our community.  As such, we developed a more affordable capital improvement plan to invest $130 million into Ralph Wilson Stadium over the next several years, nearly $100 million less than was originally discussed.  Of that total, the Bills organization will invest $35 million with New York State and Erie County covering the remaining $95 million ($54 million from NYS and $41 million from Erie County). 

This funding will go directly towards improving the fan experience at games and includes:

  • Implementation of new technology including a new video display in the east end of the stadium;
  • Creation of a new west end plaza; and,
  • Renovation and expansion of concessions and restroom facilities.

The Bills will be showing our community the same loyalty that fans have shown them for over 50 years by agreeing to a binding non-relocation clause, that if breached would require them to repay the State and County $400 million.  Also, for the first time, the Bills will be paying rent starting at about $800,000 per year and increasing annually, which will go directly into a stadium capital improvements fund.

This agreement also looks towards the long-term future of the Bills in Buffalo.  First, it establishes a New Stadium Working Group that will explore the potential for the construction of a new stadium.  Second, beginning in the 6th year of the lease, up to half of the capital improvement fund (for a total of $11.2 million) can be diverted to be used to conduct studies related to a new stadium location, design and development.

I strongly believe that the Buffalo Bills are not just a driver of our regional economy but also critical to the framework and collective identity of our community.  This new lease agreement will keep it that way for years to come.          

As we go forward and discuss the ins-and-outs of this lease deal with the public and the County Legislature, I welcome your opinions and input.  If you would like to express your opinion on the 10-year lease with the Buffalo Bills or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 716-858-8500 or email me at emailmark@erie.gov.