AECOM study backs new Buffalo Bills stadium

A feasibility study considering future stadium options for the Buffalo Bills in New York has recommended the NFL team pursues the construction of a new home venue rather than renovating its long-time home at Highmark Stadium.

The report, compiled by engineering and consulting firm AECOM on behalf of New York State authorities, said it made sense for the Bills and state and Erie County officials to pursue one of two sites already earmarked for the project.

AECOM found that renovating Highmark Stadium would cost approximately $862m, which would be substantially less than the construction of a new arena. However, the report cites “a tipping point” when the cost of renovations exceed 60% of building a new facility.

The AECOM study, which will be used as a help guide by the Bills and local officials, estimates that a new stadium at the team’s proposed location, across the street from its current home in Orchard Park, would cost $1.35bn. Building one downtown would cost around $2.10bn because of the need to acquire land and make necessary infrastructure upgrades.

AECOM’s study did not recommend either preferred site, with that decision left to the state’s Empire State Development (ESD), Erie County and the Bills. The report assumes that the stadium would have a capacity of at least 60,000, with around 60 private suites and up to 6,000 club seats.

As the current lease with the Buffalo Bills to play home games at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park expires in July of 2023, AECOM was retained to provide advisory services related to the potential development of a new stadium for the team after ESD requested proposals from previously pre-qualified firms to provide real estate, economic analysis and related services.

“Empire State Development is pleased to present the completed AECOM Bills’ stadium analysis,” said Kevin Younis, chief operating officer at ESD.

“We are confident that the results of this analysis will be a valuable tool as the state, Erie County and the Buffalo Bills work together to make sure the team remains in the region in a facility that Bills fans and all New Yorkers can be proud of for years to come.”​

The AECOM study addresses a variety of topics, including consideration of the renovation of Highmark Stadium versus the development of a new stadium; consideration of a new stadium in a downtown Buffalo site versus near the existing stadium in Orchard Park; consideration of an open-air stadium versus an enclosed stadium; and consideration of economic and fiscal impacts related to potential ancillary development, the ongoing operations of the Bills, and the potential loss impact if the Bills were to relocate to another market.

The Bills in June were said to be exploring options for a new stadium, having 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 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, reiterating this stance last month, and the team has been working with strategic management consulting firm CAA Icon to assess the potential for a new venue.

Image: Idibri/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size