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Buffalo Bills, New York State announce first new stadium deal in 50 years

The Bills are getting a new stadium!

The Buffalo Bills and New York State have announced that they have a stadium agreement. The team is going to remain in Western New York indefinitely. What seemed tenuous when founding owner Ralph Wilson passed away in 2014 has come to fruition and now Kim and Terry Pegula will be in charge of a brand new $1.4 billion facility in the very near future.

Details are still going to be worked out over the coming weeks and months, but the facility is going to be an open-air stadium in Orchard Park across the street from the current stadium. While it’s not going to be a dome, the majority of seats are going to be protected from rain and snow. The playing surface is going to be natural grass. The stands will house 60,000 to 62,000 seats with a standing-room party deck for up to 5,000 more.

The lease is for 30 years with an ironclad out for New York State; if the Bills leave, they pay every penny of the cost to build the stadium. Public funding for the project is going to be $850 million with $600 million coming from the state and $250 million from Erie County.

The NFL is loaning the Pegulas $200 million, with $150 million being repaid through vesting team’s ticket shares.

The rest of the total $1.4 billion price tag will be paid by the Pegulas themselves to the tune of $350 million. Some of that will be paid by season ticket holders in the form of Personal Seat Licenses, which will be sold before buyers can access tickets. Those will start at $1000 per seat and go up from there.

New York State lawmakers will vote on the spending as part of the state’s budget vote later this week. Erie County will vote over the course of the next 30 days. No one anticipates any major problems with either vote.

According to Tim Graham of The Athletic, the process has already been moving behind the scenes because the two sides were close enough to a deal. (Graham speculated the deal has been done for some time but they waited to announce it for political reasons.)

The deal should allow the building to open in time for the 2026 season, according to a team spokesperson, and before the upper deck at the current stadium needs to be replaced. A short-term extension to the lease on the current building will be necessary, as the current lease expires at the end of the 2022 season.

The team’s current stadium in Orchard Park is approaching its 50th birthday. Improving the building would have taken massive amounts of dollars that could be better spent on a new facility that meets all of the team, state, and county’s needs.

In the recent negotiations, there was never really any doubt it would get done despite the apprehensiveness. Once the Pegulas bought the team, it felt like a matter of time and recent comments from both sides were largely positive.

“It’ll be done by March 31,” Hochul told The Buffalo News in late January. “That’s the date for our budget. We’re in conversations with the Bills and they understand the process. They’re not getting anxious.”

Turns out the NFL owner meetings in March were the deadline that needed to happen. Owners voted on the proposal Monday morning and the announcement was out by lunch. Hochul needs to include it in her budget by the end of March, and state lawmakers will have their say on Thursday. Deadlines spur action.