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Buffalo Bills’ stadium renovation not a viable option, says Pegula executive

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills’ stadium is coming up on its fifty anniversary and the repair budget is piling up to the point where it’s not viable to continue patching problems, says an executive from the team. Pegula Sports & Entertainment took The Buffalo News on a tour of the stadium last week to show the crumbling structure and the major repairs that would have to be completed in order to simply maintain the building.

As part of the team’s public relations campaign for a new stadium, Tim Graham of The Athletic shared last week that renovating High Mark Stadium wouldn’t be cost-effective because of the structural integrity of the building. In the article, he said it would cost $400 million just to keep the stadium open past the current lease. PSE now says that the full-scale renovation would cost at least $1 billion, making the $1.4 billion for a new stadium well worth it.

Those numbers actually add up, too. In 2003, the Chicago Bears fully renovated Soldier Field and spent a year playing at a local college campus. They spent $690 million for their renovation of the classic home.

So what would need to be renovated just to keep the doors open? For starters, the upper deck is reaching the end of its lifespan and would need to be removed and replaced. The entire upper deck.

“The most significant of the issues observed were the continued deterioration of the structure’s main sideline concrete frames and upper deck seating panels,” the report says, per the Buffalo News. The report indicated the need for a complete tear off within the next five to seven years.

In addition to that big ticket item, multiple other pieces would need to be renovated within the terms of a lease extension:

“Multiple partial or full replacements are imminent. Those include the lower ring wall, which is showing signs of shifting and cracking, in the next five to 10 years; club suite roofs in the next five years; restroom tower roofs in the next two years; and a pair of drainage structures.”

There are concerns about the water and electrical systems, some of which date back to the original construction in the early 1970s.

The reports also highlights a concern for fans in wheelchairs. Because of when the stadium was built, it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some wheelchair-access seating is at the top of the 300 level in the upper deck and is accessible only by elevator. In the event of a power outage, patrons in wheelchairs would need to be carried down by staff. Many of the team’s suites lack wheelchair access.

Then there are updates to modern practices. These aren’t strictly necessary, but something that a multi-billion dollar organization should be able to handle. Trash and waste need to be loaded onto carts during the event to go through the fan concourse to the dumpsters instead of being stored or moved behind the scenes. It’s the same with restocking the vendors, who don’t have space to store their next batch of items and need it carted in from a central hub during the event. The food isn’t prepared in the stadium but at a secondary building, and moved to the stadium after.

“It’s very clear the Pegulas want a new stadium,” said PSE spokesperson Jim Wilkinson. “We think it’s clear that renovating this one’s not an option, and we want people to know that putting upwards of a billion dollars into renovating a stadium that they don’t own is simply not fair or going to happen.”

As we wrote in our previous reporting on the issue, none of the renovations we mentioned in here would make the team or Erie County or the State of New York any more money. It would be $400 million to $1 billion just to maintain the status quo and fix the deficiencies.

When folks ask you why the Bills need a new stadium, send them this link with the photos and call it a day.