SBD/August 9, 2012/Facilities

U.S. Sen. Schumer Seeks Amendment To NFL's G-4 Loan Program On Behalf Of Bills

Bills are currently working with Erie County on a new lease agreement
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday "suggested the NFL massage the terms of a loan program that helps teams build and renovate stadiums," according to Tim Graham of the BUFFALO NEWS. The next question, though, is "whether or not the Bills have any interest in participating in the program to begin with." The NFL's G-4 loan program offers matching funds for every dollar toward stadium costs after the team spends $25M. But the Bills "have relied on state funding for stadium improvements in the past." The Bills and Erie County [New York] Exec Mark Poloncarz "previously have stated they expect the state to pick up the bulk again." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "I spoke to [Owner Ralph] Wilson this afternoon about Sen. Schumer's recommendations, and clearly the proposed amendment would be very helpful for our franchise. Obviously, Sen. Schumer has made productive recommendations in the past and has certainly been an advocate for small-market franchises like ourselves." Brandon "declined to answer whether the Bills were interested in pursuing G-4 funding because he didn't want to comment on the specifics of stadium-lease negotiations." The Bills and Erie County "are working to extend a lease agreement that expires July 31, 2013." The Bills said that they must spend a reported $200-220M on "structural improvements and renovations to bring the stadium up to code." Schumer said, "The G-4 program requires the loan to be paid back in full upon the sale of the team. The due-on-sale (stipulation) makes the program less attractive for the current Bills ownership to participate because this team ... may be sold, as we all know." Schumer "would like the NFL to tweak that provision by agreeing to waive it for any seller that has owned the club for at least 20 years" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/9).

LAWYER UP: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana notes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Foley & Lardner partner Irwin Raij, who serves as the firm's Sports Industry Team co-Chair, to "advise the state in its efforts to make sure the Bills remain in Buffalo long after the death of current owner Ralph Wilson, who is 93, and the team has changed hands." Cuomo said, “New York state is committed to doing all we can to keep the Bills a part of the Buffalo community, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and seeing that the team can thrive in western New York for years to come" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 8/9).

ROGER THAT: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "reiterated people want the Bills to remain here, a new stadium lease is 'a very high priority,' and the team will be sold after Ralph Wilson dies." Goodell said, "The fans need to do everything they can to support the Bills, and we're going to work hard to make sure they continue to be successful here. There's no reason why they can't be." The BUFFALO NEWS' Graham notes Goodell "didn't deliver any new information" regarding a Bills succession plan. There was "no mention of the Bills possibly being held in a trust after Wilson dies or any change of heart that someone within his family would like to keep the team." Also, no prospective owners "were identified" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/9).

NEW FOR THIS YEAR: Also in Buffalo, T.J. Pignataro noted the Bills yesterday announced several "new additions and elements to enhance the fans' gameday experience at Ralph Wilson Stadium" for the '12 season. Among the additions "will be a new security screening process at the entry gate, Tailgate Party expansion, a 'Think Green' environmentally conscious tailgate party program, 'Make Mom Proud' initiative as well as changes or enhancements to the parking lots and roads at and around the stadium" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/8).
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