SBD/March 15, 2011/Facilities

Bills Beginning To Negotiate New Lease More Than Two Years Before Expiration

Third partner might be needed to cover costs on Bills' stadium renovations
The Bills' lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium expires on July 31, 2013, and the team and Erie County officials "have held preliminary talks that have been described as informal, social discussions," according to Gaughan & Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Both the Bills and the county "seem intent on bringing a third partner, New York State, to the table, to help pay for renovations to keep the 38-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium more relevant in the new NFL." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson, 92, has "no incentive to enter into a long-term extension," but his commitment to "keep the team in Western New York during his lifetime gives local officials confidence that an extension will get done." No one wants to be "known as the politician who couldn't nail down a new lease agreement and paved the way for the team to leave." However, county officials "also may have a difficult time explaining away county concessions to the Bills, when cultural agencies and local libraries are seeing significant cutbacks." The Bills' current lease for 15 years began in '98, and with "so much uncertainty about the team's future here, 15 years seems the longest a new lease might run." The state "faces a dire financial situation, and it's unclear whether it will be asked to fund a similarly large capital-improvement project" for the stadium. The annual upkeep has kept the facility "in good condition," but there are "plenty of ways it could be spruced up as part of a new deal," including "renovating the press box into luxury suites" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/14).

WILL CHARGERS MAKE LEASE PAYMENTS? VOICE OF SAN DIEGO's Andrew Donohue reported there is a clause in the Chargers' contract with the city of San Diego that lets the team "forgo paying the $2.5 million rent if a 'force majeure event' prevents the team from using" Qualcomm Stadium. The term is used to describe an "unexpected event, like a natural disaster, war or other 'act of God,' that would keep a party from living up to its contract." The Chargers are claiming that the NFL lockout "is indeed a force majeure." Chargers attorneys said that the term "isn't defined in the latest amended contract, so the definition falls back to the original lease." Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani noted a lockout is included in the lease (VOICEOFSANDIEGO.org, 3/14).
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