The National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, Erie County and New York State have reached an agreement that will allow the team to build a new $140 million stadium in Orchard Park.
The project, described as the largest construction project in Western New York history, will be built with union labor through a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and is projected to create 10,000 construction jobs.
The deal negotiated by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has secured a 30-year commitment for the Bills to remain in Buffalo, and a combined $550 million investment from the Bills and NFL.
The governor will advance a $600 million proposal in the state budget, and Erie County will contribute $250 million, says a March 28 statement from Hochul’s office. The economic and tax impacts generated from the team will support more than 100 percent of the public share of the new stadium cost, the statement said.
“I went into these negotiations trying to answer three questions — how long can we keep the Bills in Buffalo, how can we make sure this project benefits the hard-working men and women of Western New York and how can we get the best deal for taxpayers?” Hochul said. “I’m pleased that after months of negotiations, we’ve come out with the best answers possible – the Bills will stay in Buffalo for another 30 years, the project will create 10,000 union jobs and New Yorkers can rest assured that their investment will be recouped by the economic activity the team generates.”
There are still “a few more yards to go before we cross the goal line” to complete the stadium, the statement said, attributing remarks to Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who said “we feel our public-private partnership between New York State, Erie County led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the National Football League will get us there.”
Poloncarz said: “The Buffalo Bills are ingrained in the heart and soul of every Western New Yorker. It was essential that we entered into an agreement that ensured the team stayed in Buffalo, but was also a fair deal for the people of Erie County and New York. That is exactly the agreement that has been reached: the Bills will play in Buffalo for the next 30 years; 10,000 building trades union jobs will work on the project; and the county will no longer contribute annual operating and capital expenses, thereby saving county taxpayers tens of millions through the life of the lease.”
The share of public financing is reduced from previous stadium deals. In 1973, the construction of Highmark Stadium was 100 percent publicly financed, as was the 1998 renovation and training facility construction. 73 percent of the 2013 renovation was publicly financed. This proposal includes just 60.7 percent public financing, well below other recent NFL stadium deals in comparable markets. The State share is 43 percent.
The 30-year agreement details the construction of a new stadium with a minimum of 60,000 seats in Orchard Park, Erie County to be designed and constructed by the Buffalo Bills. The deal includes a commitment from the Bills to play at the new stadium for the next 30 years. The Bills will begin design of the new stadium immediately, and all parties will begin negotiations on extending the team’s current lease for Highmark Stadium that expires in 2023.
The stadium project is projected to create approximately 10,000 construction jobs and will be constructed using union labor in accordance with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The Bills will negotiate a PLA with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Buffalo, New York and Vicinity, AFL-CIO, on behalf of its affiliated local unions. The deal requires the Bills to agree to a Community Benefits Agreement, which is to be negotiated.
Erie County will transfer ownership of the current stadium and adjoining complex, which includes practice facilities and office space, to the State. The State will own the new stadium and adjoining complex, which will be leased to the Bills. In the event the Bills default on the agreement, the State and County have the right to go to court to enforce non-relocation terms. The new stadium can be used for civic purposes, such as, if necessary, vaccination delivery and election operations – as well as in emergencies.
“We want to thank Governor Hochul, the Pegula family, and Buffalo Bills for making union labor the focal point of the new Bills Stadium construction project,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council.
“The new Bills Stadium will create 10,000 good paying union jobs, and after two difficult years of the pandemic, this public-private investment is exactly what’s needed for hard working families in Western New York. On behalf of the 200,000 tradespeople we represent across the state, New York State Building and Construction Trades Council is proud to support this project, and our members look forward to getting to work and keeping the Bills in Western New York.”