Study to determine future of major Buffalo sports venues

Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE), ownership group of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, has hired strategic management consulting firm CAA ICON to assess the potential for a new stadium for the NFL American football franchise and renovations to the home of the NHL ice hockey team.

CAA ICON will conduct a privately-funded study to help identify the best options for ownership, fans and the community. The study will include direct feedback from Bills and Sabres fans. “The number one priority for this study is the fan experience,” said PSE president and CEO, Kim Pegula.

“CAA ICON has an extensive resume, having participated in dozens of first-class professional facilities, along with Harborcenter and Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. We have the utmost confidence that CAA ICON’s unparalleled experience will help ensure that our venues achieve the highest standards.”

Over the coming months, CAA ICON will guide PSE through a stadium feasibility analysis to identify the needed improvements to all aspects of the fan and team experience at either a new football stadium or renovated New Era Field. The latter 71,600-seat venue (pictured) has been the Bills’ home since it opened in August 1973.

The study will equally focus on modernising the home of the Sabres, KeyBank Center. The arena has been the home of the NHL team since it opened in September 1996. As CAA ICON’s study explores the possibility of a new football stadium, it will include potential stadium sites, design, and financial planning for all options.

In addition to CAA ICON’s internal venue development and strategic advisory experts, the firm has partnered with national and local architectural and engineering consultants for the evaluations. Populous will provide architectural services.

“As both New Era Field and KeyBank Center have aged, they have fallen behind modern standards,” said Bruce Popko, PSE’s chief operating officer. “Terry and Kim Pegula have invested more than $2bn (£1.56bn/€1.77bn) of their own money in our market, including $350m in privately-financed venue upgrades and expansions. With both leases nearing expiration, we look forward to developing a plan and working with our public sector partners to solidify the futures of the Bills and Sabres.”

Tim Romani, CAA ICON founder and CEO, added: “CAA ICON will collaborate with PSE, the Bills and Sabres fanbase, and the Buffalo community to understand and unlock the perfect spectator experience and optimise these venues for what is unique to Buffalo and its rich gameday traditions.”

The Buffalo News newspaper said the study is expected to take between six and nine months to complete, with Popko admitting that the nature of the current lease deals add pressure to the timeline. The Bills stadium lease agreement expires in 2023, while the lease for KeyBank Center ends in 2025.

“We have some more time, but we are up against it,” Popko said. “We are now to the phase where we have to begin to make some determinations because five years goes really in the blink of an eye.”

Image: Buffalo Bills