Buffalo Bills ‘to target’ new stadium for $1.4bn

NFL American football franchise the Buffalo Bills has decided to build a new stadium for $1.4bn (£1.01bn/€1.19bn) across the road from its existing home, according to the Associated Press.

The news agency, citing a person with direct knowledge of the discussions, said the Bills have decided to go down the new stadium route having come to the conclusion that renovation of the existing Highmark Stadium (pictured) was “simply not an option”.

The Bills in June were said to be exploring options for a new stadium, with the lease on its current home due to expire in July 2023. The Bills have played at Highmark Stadium since 1973. In February 2020, the team chose not to use an early opt-out clause to terminate its lease agreement for the 71,000-seat stadium, ensuring its immediate future at the venue.

The Bills had been canvassing opinions from supporters on whether it should build a new home or renovate the existing facility. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has previously suggested that the Bills need a new stadium in order to remain competitive, and the team has been working with strategic management consulting firm CAA Icon to assess the potential for a new venue.

It had been reported that the Bills would prefer to build a new stadium in Orchard Park, where Highmark Stadium is located. CBS Sports, citing an initial report from RochesterFirst.com, noted that the new stadium would be open-air but with a partial covering for fans, with a targeted completion date of 2025 at the earliest.

The Venues Now website reported that the Bills had appointed Legends Global Sales to sell sponsorships and premium seats for the team’s prospective new stadium in a deal that also included a potential new home for the Washington Football Team. Legends Global Planning was also said to have signed on as the Bills’ representative in the team’s plans to build a new stadium.

The AP reported yesterday (Thursday) that the Bills’ proposal has been presented to New York state and Erie County officials as part of talks, which began two months ago, to determine the future of Highmark Stadium.

The state and county in 2013 committed $227m towards Highmark Stadium renovations and annual capital and game-day expenses. Further repairs are needed, which in 2014 were projected at $540m, a figure that will be significantly higher in today’s prices.

The AP said the proposed new stadium would be built on a Bills-controlled parking lot located directly across the street from Highmark Stadium. This would allow the team to continue playing home games at the venue until the new stadium is completed.

It is yet to be decided how much state and local taxpayer money would go towards the project. Last week, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz warned that the state and county won’t be writing what he termed “a blank cheque.”

He added: “We will get a deal done. It’s just got to be a fair deal for all.”

Image: Alan Kotok/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size