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Buffalo Bills, New Era Part Ways in Stadium Naming Rights Deal

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On Wednesday, the Bills announced in a statement that the team and New Era Cap Company would be parting ways in their naming rights and sponsorship deal. The company had reached a naming rights agreement with the franchise beginning in 2016.

Buffalo is currently looking for a new naming rights partner, and it's unclear when the exact date of the change will take place.

Bills ownership has reportedly been working with New Era to restructure their deal for over a year, according to Tim O'Shei of The Buffalo News. The team will now look to find a new partner in a time when fans attending NFL games in the near future is a shaky proposition at best.

Per Forbes, stadium revenue accounts for $5.5 billion, which includes ticket prices, concessions, parking, sponsors and team stores. Should no fans be permitted to attend Bills games this season, Forbes reports the team would lose $104 million of its $386 million in total revenue.

New Era's deal with the Bills in 2016 represented a larger plan to keep the team in Buffalo following the death of founder and owner Ralph Wilson Jr. When Wilson passed in 2014, Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the team, and two years later officially offered the naming rights to New Era CEO Chris Koch. New Era was founded in Buffalo by Ehrhardt Koch, Chris's great-grandfather.

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The naming rights deal signed in 2016 was reportedly a seven-year deal worth around $4 million per year.

Since taking over the company in 2012, Chris Koch has made several high-profile (and high-cost) deals. That year, New Era became the official provider of sideline headwear for the NFL. In 2016, New Era signed a deal with the NBA to become the sole on-court cap company. That same year, it added its logo on the side of all MLB players' caps. New Era also opened a store at the L.A. Live entertainment center in downtown Los Angeles in 2017.

O'Shei reports the costs of New Era's annual payouts to easily be into the eight figures, though the exact amounts for each deal is not publicly available. Despite reporting $750 million in revenue in late 2018, New Era closed its plant in Derby in 2019, which had more than 200 employees and produced over 4.5 million caps annually.

New Era also furloughed approximately 70% of its U.S. employees in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This will mark the third time the Bills' stadium has changed its name. It opened in 1973 as Rich Stadium, and was renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium in 1997.