Orchard Park, N.Y.— The Buffalo Bills are here to stay— at least for now.
On Friday, the Buffalo Bills, Erie County and state leaders held a joint press conference to announce that they have reached a new agreement and signed a new ten-year lease. The Bills will continue to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the next seven years. After that, the franchise has the option to choose a buyout for $28 million.
“Today is a monumental day because it is a significant step in securing the long term future of the Buffalo Bills in New York,” says Bills CEO Russ Brandon.
There were worries that the franchise would leave Buffalo for other cities. State leaders say those worries were unwarranted.
“I will note right now that the Bills could leave for $2 million,” Erie County Executive Mark Polancraz said. “Last year, they could have left this community for $2 million based on the prior lease. If they wanted to leave, they could have left for peanuts but [The Bills] have been committed to this community.”
Under the new lease, the franchise would face a $400 million dollar penalty if it leaves Buffalo.
The new lease also includes $130 million for upgrades to Ralph Wilson stadium. The Bills will contribute $35 million, the state- $54 million and the Erie County will put in $41 million.
The renovations include new video displays, a new west end plaza, a team store and renovated concessions.
However, using $95 million in taxpayer money for renovations doesn’t sit well with everyone.
“I think there is so much more need now,” said Greece Resident Kim Wood. “I think there are better ways to use tax payers’ money.”
Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy says the Buffalo Bills are vital to the region.
“[The franchise] has a business impact,” he said. “It has a morale impact. It is a part of the fabric of our community here in Buffalo and all over Western New York.”
In addition to the renovations, a new committee will be formed to look into the possibility of building a new football stadium in the future.
“We are putting together a team to analyze if a new stadium should be built and if so where it would be and the size,” explained Poloncraz. “At the 8th, 9th and 10th year of the lease, the county and state has the opportunity to take the money that would be designated for Ralph Wilson Stadium upgrades, half of the money we use on the upgrades can be put in a segregated account used for a design and construction of a new stadium.”
Rochester-area Buffalo Bills fans were happy with the news that the Bills would stick around.
“I was thrilled when I heard that,” said Michael Thomas. “It was all over Twitter and Facebook. Bills fans are ecstatic right now. As a Bills fan, it is great news. Now the next thing to do is get better. Start winning again and hopefully things are looking great for the Bills.”