BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continued to bang the drum for a new football stadium in Western New York, telling local reporters Monday morning that “we’re focused on keeping the Bills here in a new stadium in a public-private partnership.”
“I think almost every year I come up here this has been something that’s been discussed,” Goodell said. “But it actually even goes back to the ’90s when I was part of the negotiations, and at that point we were talking about, ‘Well, yeah, we can renovate the stadium, but it’s not going to last much longer through renovations. At some point we’ve got to talk about a new stadium.’ And we’re certainly beyond that. And I think a new stadium is what’s needed. I think it’s going to require a public-private partnership. I think the Bills and the community and probably the NFL are all going to have to come together and figure out how to do that in a smart way, and I think we will.”
The Bills recently financed a private study to determine whether a new stadium is needed or whether renovations could suffice. The team is now of the belief that renovations would be too costly to be worthwhile, and they would like to build a new stadium across the street in Orchard Park at a cost of $1.4 billion. They expect a heavy dose of public financing. Neither Erie County nor New York State has responded to requests for comment.
“It’s time to get a new stadium done that we think can make sure the Bills are here and successful for many, many decades going forward,” Goodell said. ” … We’re focused on keeping the Bills here in a new stadium in a public-private partnership. That’s what this is all about and that’s where we’re focusing.”
The Bills’ lease with Erie County runs through July 2023. The Orchard Park facility now known as Highmark Stadium was originally opened in 1973 and is among the oldest stadiums in the league, though it has received $130 million in renovations over the past decade. Additionally, owners Terry and Kim Pegula financed an $18 million overhaul of the team’s practice facility and weight room in 2018.
The issue at hand is who will pay for a new facility – and how much. NFL teams regularly seek public funding for stadiums, and often threaten to leave town if they can’t cut a favorable deal.
Jim Wilkinson, a new spokesperson for Pegula Sports & Entertainment, said ominously last week, “right now the City of Buffalo and the State are going to have to decide if they want a team.”
Goodell did not go that far Monday, but reiterated his belief that a public contribution will be required.
“I don’t know the timeline, other than I know serious discussions are happening now. I think it’s going to take a lot of that. It’s going to take a tremendous focus,” Goodell said. “We’ve had a lot of experience around the county doing these. They require that public-private partnership and a process where everyone gets to understand what’s needed, what’s required. It’ll have to be something that’s built for Buffalo. The same thing that was built in Dallas may not work here in Buffalo. It’s got to fit Buffalo. And I think that’s one of the things that the focus has to be on: Finding solutions for Buffalo and the Bills so they can continue to be successful here in Western New York.”