Bills Throw Down Gauntlet on New Stadium

A spokesman for the co-owners said the city and state are "going to have to decide if they want a team."
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Negotiating more than $1 billion in funding for a new stadium is always a complicated process, but the most recent stance by Pegula Sports & Entertainment seems pretty clear: The Buffalo Bills need a deal in place relatively soon for the State of New York to avoid losing its only NFL franchise.

"The Pegulas have made a proposal," PSE spokesperson Jim Wilkinson said Tuesday, according to WIVB Channel 4 in Buffalo. "They would like to build it right there [in Orchard Park], and we need to hear back. You can’t really do plans and designs on things until you have a deal, and right now the City of Buffalo and the State are going to have to decide if they want a team.”

The Bills are the only NFL team that operates in New York. The Jets and Giants both train in New Jersey, where they operate a joint stadium.

Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula have released the results of an independent study that suggests renovations to its existing facility, Highmark Stadium, would not be cost-effective.

"It would cost 500 million to replace the upper deck," Wilkinson said. "It would cost a lot of money to replace the electrical systems and the water systems, which are many decades now out of date. It would be about a billion dollars to renovate the stadium — and not only is that unrealistic and not wise, it’s just not going to happen."

A new stadium would cost around $1.5 billion, according to estimates.

The Bills' stadium lease expires in 2023. That means they may have to find a temporary home while a new venue, which would not be ready for the 2023 season even if construction began today, is being built.

Toronto, site of BMO Field and the Rogers Centre, and Penn State's Beaver Stadium have been mentioned as possibilities.

A permanent relocation, possibly to Austin, Texas, could happen if the Pegulas don't get what they want from a public-private partnership they've proposed to pay for the new facility.

In the meantime, incoming governor Kathy Hochul and Erie County legislators have a 10-ton safe dangling over their heads, guaranteed to be damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.