SBD/September 13, 2012/Franchises

Bills, Erie County Working On One-Year Lease Extension; Renovation Likely Delayed Past '13

Poloncarz said renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium likely won't start this off-season
Erie County (New York) Exec Mark Poloncarz yesterday said that he “believes that a short-term deal to extend the terms” of the Bills' existing lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium by a year “can be worked out quickly," according to Denise Jewell Gee of the BUFFALO NEWS. However, Poloncarz added that it is "not likely major stadium construction will start during the 2013 off-season.” Poloncarz said, "The goal was to get a lease done this year so we could have shovels in the ground, so that fans of the Buffalo Bills who attend games for the 2013 season would see changes at Ralph Wilson Stadium before the start of that season. In all likelihood, that's not going to happen now." Gee notes meanwhile, state officials yesterday sought to “clarify their role in the negotiations, objecting to a characterization” by Bills CEO Russ Brandon that talks are "in a stalled holding pattern." Gee notes, “Extracting a long-term commitment from the Bills to stay in the region in exchange for public funding for major upgrades to the county-owned stadium has been at the center of negotiations, which started early this year, to renew a lease agreement that expires in July 2013.” Poloncarz said that a proposal from the Bills for more than $200M in renovations to the stadium "would take three off-seasons to complete.” He added that the start of major construction “would now likely be pushed back until 2014 once a long-term lease deal is reached.” Gee notes Bills execs and state and county officials “are now focused on arranging a one-year extension of the lease to allow discussions over a long-term deal to continue” (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/13). Poloncarz said that he “expects the new one-year deal would be similar to the team's existing lease” (AP, 9/12). In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan noted “the last meeting held among all three parties in the talks -- the Bills, and state and county officials -- was June 29.” A source said that “three scheduled meetings since then were canceled or postponed.” The NFL has a fall meeting scheduled for Oct. 16-17 in Chicago “at which G-4 funding for Buffalo could get approved.” But for the Bills to “get on the agenda for that meeting,” the team “would need to present a plan to various league committees” when those panels meet Sept. 19-20 in N.Y. Brandon: "The key point is we're going to miss committee meetings -- most notably the Stadium Committee meeting next week -- which will not allow us to be on the agenda for the October meeting. So we can't reasonably expect to complete the process in time for the 2013 offseason schedule for potential work (on the stadium)" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 9/12).
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