Buffalo Bills Stadium Gets $600M in NY Funding
Earlier this month, the New York State Legislature approved its $220 billion state budget, which included $600 million for the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills new $1.4 billion open-air stadium. Construction on the project is expected to reach completion in time for the 2026 season and will house more than 60,000 people across from the Bills’ existing facility in Buffalo’s suburb of Orchard Park.
The bill that included the Bills stadium funding passed 95-49 in the Assembly and 39-23 in the Senate.
About the Stadium
When talks first started taking place regarding the renovation of the original stadium, which opened in 1973, the Bills were informed that it would be too expensive to upgrade the facility. As a result of the news, last summer the team started to consider an extensive line-by-line monetary breakdown of a new, proposed facility.
Although there were no actual renderings of what the new stadium might look like, the team told reporters that it only planned to hire a firm after an agreement was reached. Yet, as the Bills and their parent company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, continued to negotiate with the state and county over project funding, an announcement was made that they’d hired architecture firm Populous in March.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget includes more than a billion dollars to build a football stadium in Buffalo.https://t.co/iCO9T2jsZm— The Nation (@thenation) April 12, 2022
In addition to hiring an architect, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was also reported to have expressed confidence earlier that month that she would have a deal in place for the project to be included on the state budget, which was due at the beginning of April. At the time, Hochul indicated that one issue the project faced was the stadium lease timeline, which would ensure the franchise’s long-term presence in the region.
Another issue, which was criticized by the editorial board at Syracuse.com, was having taxpayers foot the bill in an amount that was slated to reach hundreds of millions of dollars. If approved, reports revealed that the project would be the richest public stadium subsidy in history, eclipsing the $750 million taxpayer subsidy for the NFL Raiders’ $1.9 billion stadium in Las Vegas.
Stadium Approval, Funding
Nine days after the deadline for completing the state’s spending plan was due, New York lawmakers announced that a plan had been approved, and that included $600 million for the new Buffalo Bills stadium.
As part of the approved funding, a 30-year lease agreement was also created with the team.
According to The Buffalo News, the state will use $418 million—its portion of the $565 million in gambling revenue recently collected from the Seneca Nation of Indians—for the new stadium in Orchard Park. To make up the remaining construction funds, the state has approved the appropriation of $182 million from the capital projects portion of the budget.
State and county taxpayers will be asked to commit $850 million in public funds toward construction of the stadium. In addition, the new stadium is also expected to receive $250 million from Erie County, making it the largest public subsidy ever given to an NFL franchise to build a stadium.
“We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park,” the team said in a statement. “We are grateful for the time, efforts and unwavering commitment made by Governor [Kathy] Hochul and her team throughout this process. While there are more hurdles to clear before getting to the finish line, we feel our public-private partnership between New York State, Erie County, led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the National Football League will get us there.”
While the funding was met with opposition from several Democratic lawmakers, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes voiced that she believed the return would be sizable, as the project is estimated to create 2,000 construction jobs.
“I see restaurants, bars, supermarkets, retail stores that will flourish during these opportunities while the facility is being built and will flourish afterward,” she said. “This is good for Buffalo. This is really good for every upstate community around us.”
According to Gov. Hochul, the project will create 10,000 union jobs with the commitment recouped by the economic activity generated by the team. In previous reports, the state estimated that the Bills would generate $27 million in direct annual income for the state.
On the opposing side, legislators pointed to the fact that the funding was going to the Bills owners, Terry and Kim Pegula—both billionaires—without any proof that the project will be an economic driver. They also were reported to cite economists who claim that new stadiums aren’t worth their price tag.
Last month, the NFL approved a $200 million loan for the stadium construction as well. Thus far, the Pegulas have stated they will be providing at least $350 million toward the stadium construction.
“Our public schools got less than the Buffalo Bills stadium. The climate bill, the climate project that we really wanted, also got less than the Buffalo Bills project,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan. “Is that what we stand for? This is a moment where we have to look at where our priorities are.”
While those opposing the project were not met with a favorable vote, upon its approval, Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) was reported in saying that it was an historical moment in the 62-year history of the franchise, which began playing in Orchard Park 50 years ago.
“We are thrilled to have been able to get this over the finish line,” Kennedy said. “It’s not only important that we keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo – the only New York State NFL team. It’s important we keep them here in the state.”
NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe reported on Pegula Sports EVP Ron Raccuia that the official groundbreaking for the new stadium is scheduled for the spring of 2023 with a targeted completion date of 2026.