SBD/April 2, 2014/Facilities

Bills' Stadium Panel Holds First Meeting, Says Process Will Take Months Or Even Years

A penalty for relocation is built into the Bills' lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium
New York State Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who co-chairs the Bills' New Stadium Working Group, said that gathering and analyzing data on whether the team "should play in a new stadium or remain in a greatly retrofitted" facility in Orchard Park "could take months, if not years," according to Matthew Spina of the BUFFALO NEWS. The group held its first meeting yesterday, with Duffy and co-chairs Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon and Erie County Exec Mark Polancarz acknowledging a "sense of urgency after the death" of Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. last week. But they "described only in general terms how the panel will go about its work over the coming months." The public "should not expect the panel to recommend a course of action anytime soon." Duffy, Brandon and Polancarz represent the three entities that are "parties to the lease agreement that now governs the Bills' use of the Erie County-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium" until '23. The lease, finalized in late '12, called for those entities to devote $130M to "stadium upgrades and to each appoint seven members to a group that will determine whether it makes the best long-term sense to keep using the stadium or build a new, modern arena somewhere in or near Buffalo." While the Bills will "be run for a time by a trust established by Wilson's estate, the team will eventually be sold, and the wishes of any new owner cannot be predicted." The lease "invokes a heavy" $400M penalty on any owner "attempting to move the team to another city." But in the lease's seventh year, the penalty "falls to a more manageable" $28.4M (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/2). 

A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: In Buffalo, James Fink notes the New Stadium Working Group's meeting yesterday "was attended by 16 of the group's 20 members." Brandon said, "We had some very productive discussions. Basically, it was to educate everyone about past leases and stadium work and really set an agenda to move forward." He added, "All I can say at this point is that this [is] a process, a long process. To speculate beyond that is premature. We need a lot of facts and information to help us pave the road" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 4/2). Poloncarz said, "I don't want people to think we were sitting in here and made the determination, 'Yes, there's going to be a new stadium.' That's not the case" (AP, 4/1).
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