Bills ‘choose’ Populous for new stadium, Titans progress plans

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly selected Populous to design their proposed new stadium, while fellow NFL American football franchise the Tennessee Titans have laid out their vision for a new home.

The selection of Populous by the Bills, reported by both The Athletic and Associated Press, comes with the franchise making moves to push forward with their efforts to secure a new home to replace Highmark Stadium (pictured).

The Athletic said Populous is still to meet Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, and various other departments, after which conceptual designs for the stadium are expected to be drawn up. A stadium deal has yet to be agreed with New York State and Erie County, but it was reported last week that a funding agreement is set to be announced this month, with the NFL set to provide financial support for the $1.35bn (£1.03bn/€1.23bn) project.

Ron Raccuia, an executive vice-president at Pegula Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Bills, told The Buffalo News that the NFL’s G-4 loan programme is a “critical component” of the team’s stadium deal.

The Bills would be entitled to apply to the NFL for a loan to aid the construction of a new stadium, if the team’s owners commit at least $200m to the project themselves. Raccuia has previously said that the Bills would look to sell personal seat licenses to raise funds for the project.

In November, a feasibility study considering future stadium options for the Bills recommended that the team pursue the construction of a new home venue rather than renovate 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 stadium. However, the report cited “a tipping point” when the cost of renovations exceeds 60% of building a new facility.

The Bills’ current lease to play at Highmark Stadium, which is located in Orchard Park, expires in July 2023. The Bills are reportedly seeking more than 60% in public funding towards the new 60,000-seat stadium, which would be located across the road from the current venue.

Highmark Stadium opened in 1973. It is hoped that any new stadium for the Bills could be completed in time for the 2026 season, with NFL owners reportedly set to vote on the proposal at their annual spring meeting which commences on March 27.

Tennessee Titans

Meanwhile, the Titans have expanded further on a proposed project that has seen the team switch from seeking to redevelop their current home, Nissan Stadium, to moving forward with efforts to build a new venue.

Talks over a major redevelopment for Nissan Stadium last month switched to a potential new stadium after the price tag for the initial project reportedly doubled in cost to at least $1.2bn. The news came after the Titans in January spelled out its vision for a new-look Nissan Stadium, with an agreement reportedly set to be finalised to finance an overhaul of the venue, along with a new mixed-use district.

Titans president, Burke Nihill, yesterday (Thursday) presented his vision to the Metro Sports Authority for a new stadium surrounded by a neighbourhood designed to cater to local residents rather than tourists.

The Tennessean newspaper said Metro and Titans officials hope to partner with investors to lease a large plot of city-owned riverfront land to finance the new stadium, which would be located on current parking lots located between Nissan Stadium and the highway.

The new mixed-use district would have commercial areas, but is intended to focus on resident-supported businesses and homes. “We still believe, to the extent that we have any influence, that we’re converting 100 acres of parking into Nashville’s next great neighbourhood that’s built around locals from all income levels, races and experiences,” said Nihill. “We would love for it to be a really vibrant and celebrated experience with a lot of green space.”

Nissan Stadium, owned by the Metro Sports Authority, opened in 1999 and has been the home of the Titans ever since. Plans reported in January outlined an investment of up to $600m in stadium upgrades over three seasons.

However, officials from both the Titans and Nashville authorities put Nissan Stadium redevelopment talks on hold after studies showed the renovations needed were greater than expected. “This is a very basic building in the eyes of the NFL,” Nihill said of Nissan Stadium. “This is one of the bottom 20% of buildings in the NFL built before 9/11. Security enhancements adopted by the NFL haven’t been added (because of building limitations).”

Plans are being worked around the end of the Titans’ lease deal at Nissan Stadium in 2027. Nihill said construction of a new stadium will take 31 months, but only after designs are finished and a deal is reached, a process which could take more than a year.

“We’re trying to move wisely but with a sense of urgency,” he added. “There’s a path forward that, if we have alignment by the fall, we could have a new stadium open (by 2026). It’s aggressive, but we believe it’s in play.”

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