Bills to receive $600m for new stadium as state budget agreed

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has sealed a deal on a state budget that will include $600m (£459.6m/€551.6m) in contributions to a new Buffalo Bills home that is set to receive the greatest level of public funding for a single stadium in US history.

The conclusion of the deal yesterday (Thursday) comes after the NFL American football franchise last month reached an agreement with New York State and Erie County to build a new $1.4bn stadium in Orchard Park.

Hochul (pictured) secured a 30-year commitment for the Bills to remain in Buffalo. New York State will commit $600m towards the new stadium project, with Erie County to provide $250m. The NFL and the Bills will provide the remaining $550m needed to build the new stadium, which will seat at least 60,000 people and could be finished as early as 2026.

Since the Governor proposed her Executive Budget in January, additional revenue has been forecast and surplus funds have been realised. The total budget for FY 2023 is currently estimated at approximately $220bn, based on a preliminary assessment of the negotiated changes to the Executive proposal.

Hochul, a native of the Buffalo region and a Bills fan, yesterday stated that the stadium funding is a “regional priority for part of our state”. However, it has been criticised by elected officials and good government groups, who believe the level of funding allocated represents a taxpayer gift to billionaire sports team owners.

Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul in June’s Democratic primary for Governor, is one such critic, hitting out at the Governor’s management of the budget process. He told the New York Post: “Instead of using this opportunity to lower taxes, reduce crime and make New York more affordable, Kathy Hochul showed her inexperience by botching the budget process and saddling New Yorkers with billions more in spending, including the biggest tax giveaway in NFL history to build a new Bills stadium.”

The combined $850m of taxpayer subsidies is said to represent the highest-ever mark for a US stadium, eclipsing the $750m the Las Vegas Raiders received from Clark County, Nevada to build Allegiant Stadium.

The state will set aside $182m in its budget for the stadium, with the remainder being funded through a settlement with the Seneca Nation over casino payments in Western New York. Hochul has said the public spending will be recouped through the economic activity generated by the Bills.

The Bills generate $27m annually in direct income and sales taxes for New York, Erie County and Buffalo, and that revenue will rise to more than $1.6bn over the 30-year lease, the Bloomberg news agency said, citing the Governor’s office.

The share of public financing is reduced from previous stadium deals. The construction of the Bills’ current home, Highmark Stadium, in 1973 was 100% publicly financed, as was the 1988 renovation and training facility construction. A renovation of Highmark Stadium in 2013 was also 73% publicly financed.

The team has hired Legends to work as its project manager and sales and marketing agent to sell assets of the new stadium. Populous has also been hired as the architect of record, while a construction manager is being finalised.

The Bills hope to begin work on the stadium in the spring of 2023.

Image: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul