The Bills’ existing facility was considered too expensive to renovate. If all goes well, the new stadium could be built in time for the start of the 2026 season. The team’s existing lease with the state and county runs through July 2023.
The Buffalo Bills will stay in western New York for at least the next 30 years after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced March 28 that the state reached agreement with the National Football League (NFL) team to help it construct a new $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park.
Hochul, a longtime Bills' fan, detailed a plan where New York taxpayers will shell out $600 million toward the construction costs. The state will fully own the facility and lease it to the Bills. Taxpayers in Erie County will add another $250 million to cover building costs.
Team owners Kim and Terry Pegula will pay the remaining $550 million, following their securing of a $200 million loan from the NFL, WHEC-TV in Rochester reported.
The effort is already being called the largest construction project in western New York when work officially begins on the new Buffalo Bills Stadium. Officials in the state predict that at least 10,000 construction jobs alone will be created, and workers will come from all over the area.
A Deal That ‘Made Sense' to Taxpayers
The dollar amount is thought to be the largest public commitment for an NFL facility, according to The Guardian news site. The deal is meant to secure the Bills' long-term future in Buffalo, with the proposed 60,000-plus-seat facility to be built across the street from Highmark Stadium, the team's current home since 1973.
Although the taxpayer burden of 60 percent is considered high, the agreed upon funding falls in line historically. The state and county have shared about 73 percent of the cost to build, maintain and upgrade the Bills' existing facility. Under the proposed agreement, the Bills will be responsible for covering any costs that run over the budget.
"I wanted to accomplish two major goals: Keep the Bills in western New York, keep them in the state of New York, because this is not just a western New York point of pride, it's a point of pride for all New Yorkers," Hochul, a Buffalo native herself, said during a press conference.
The second goal, she said, was "making sure that it made sense for our taxpayers in terms of our commitment and our return on the investment, which will be paid off in the next 22 years."
The Guardian reported that Hochul said the build will create 10,000 union jobs with the commitment recouped by the economic activity generated by the team. The state previously projected the Bills — the only NFL team based in New York — to generate $27 million in direct annual income for the state.
The Jets and Giants play in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Bills' Season-Ticket Holders to Take a Hit
The announcement came as the Bills' stadium proposal was approved at the NFL owners' meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. The collective also approved granting the Bills what is called a $200 million G4 loan to go toward construction costs. The Guardian noted that under the G4 program rules, the Pegulas must at least match the loan.
The Bills are expected to recoup part of their construction costs by having season-ticket holders — for the first time — pay one-time seat-licensing charges, potentially doubling the price of their ticket package.
Hochul did not include the stadium commitment in New York's $216 billion budget proposal submitted in January. She said there are many options at her disposal to draw upon the necessary money to fund the project.
The Bills' existing facility also was considered too expensive to renovate, The Guardian reported. A state study in November pegged renovation costs at $862 million.
If all goes well, the new Buffalo Bills Stadium could be built in time for the start of the 2026 season. The team's existing lease with the state and county runs through July 2023.
In anticipation of the agreement, the Bills hired Populous, the Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm that specializes in designing stadiums and arenas, to begin rendering plans and designs, which are expected to be completed by this fall. Although the stadium will not feature a roof, the Bills plan to have 80 percent of its seating protected from the elements.
Labor Leaders Ecstatic Over Huge Project
"The men and the women who will be building this project will be the men and women of union labor here in western New York, and because of the size of this project we believe that Rochester's Union Labor Building Trades will benefit from it," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told WHEC-TV.
Rochester Building and Trades Council President Grant Malone could not be happier after hearing the news that unionized construction workers will do all the work.
He also explained why it is so important to go with union labor.
"You get a fair wage," Malone said. "You have healthcare and you participate in a retirement program. You can raise your family. You can supply for your family. To me, it's the only way to go, and the craftsmanship is definitely top-notch."
The Bills' stadium is slated to be a 1.3 million-sq.-ft. facility, guaranteeing lots of work for both unskilled and skilled laborers looking for a career.
"In the construction industry, this is where you want to be," Malone said. "There's no doubt about it. We're reaching out to everybody we can because we see this work coming and it's a big [boon] for New York State."
The Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council is made up of 24 different trade unions and Malone said each one should have a stake in this project. He noted that there will be opportunities for people who work in concrete, masonry, and electrical installation, to name just a few.
The New York State Building and Construction Trades Council represents approximately 200,000 tradespeople across the state.
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