State of New York, Buffalo Bills announce deal for new stadium, and taxpayers face $850M tab

Sarah Taddeo and John Wawrow
USA Today Network New York, The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York and Erie County announced a $1.4 billion public-private deal for a new Buffalo Bills stadium Monday, which would require a $850 million infusion from New York taxpayers.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she plans to advance a $600 million proposal for the 60,000-seat-plus stadium in the state's budget deal, which is set to be finalized on Friday. The other $250 million will come from Erie County. 

"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 in a statement Monday. 

New York's negotiations secured a 30-year commitment for the Bills to remain in Buffalo. The National Football League on Monday approved a combined $550 million toward the stadium, which comprised $350 million from the Bills owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, and a $200 million loan from the NFL. 

Nearly all of that loan can be repaid over time through the visiting teams’ share of Bills ticket revenue over 25 years, based on the terms of the league’s G-4 loan program, which helps fund public-private stadium projects, according to the Buffalo News. 

"We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park," the Pegulas said in a Monday statement. 

The stadium project is projected to create approximately 10,000 union construction jobs, Hochul noted, adding that the Bills generate $27 million annually in direct income, sales and use taxes for New York, Erie County and Buffalo.

"The Buffalo Bills are ingrained in the heart and soul of every Western New Yorker," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "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."

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Negotiations for the new stadium

Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., has been home to the Buffalo Bills since 1973, when the team moved out of War Memorial Stadium.

The dollar amount of $850 million is considered to be the largest public commitment for an NFL facility, with the Bills and the league picking up the rest of cost.

The Bills presented their stadium proposal at league owners meetings in Florida in recent days. Owners approved the proposal Monday, and granted the Bills a G-4 loan for construction costs, to the tune of $200 million.

Under the G-4 program rules, the Pegulas would be required to at least match the loan.

Hochul faced a deadline to have an agreement in place in time to include the state’s share of funding in her budget before Friday. 

She previously expressed confidence in reaching a deal with the Bills before the deadline. Even though she submitted a $216 billion budget in January without including a stadium commitment, Hochul said there are numerous options at her disposal to draw upon the necessary money to fund the project.

The NFL’s $200 million contribution was already factored in as part of the funding package for the proposed facility, which will be built across the street from the Bills current stadium in Orchard Park.

Erie County will transfer ownership of the current stadium and adjoining complex, which includes practice facilities and office space, to the state, Hochul's office said Monday. New York will own the new stadium and adjoining complex and lease it to the Bills.

How does the deal compare to past Bills deals? 

Oct 20, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula walk on the field prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The $850 million of taxpayer commitment would represent about 63% of the projected cost of construction. Though high, it is lower than the 73% the state and county have historically committed to the team for construction and capital costs since the Bills were established in 1960.

The Bills are seeking to replace their existing facility which opened in 1973 and was deemed too expensive to renovate. A state study in November pegged renovation costs at $862 million.

The Bills will begin design of the new stadium immediately. The team has projected in the past that the new stadium could be built in time for the start of the 2026 season. 

The Bills’ existing lease with the state and county runs through July 2023.