Bills Stadium Breaking Ground Next Month
The new $1.14 billion Buffalo Bills stadium in Orchard Park, New York, will reportedly start construction in April, following project plan approval and land leasing agreement.
Erie County Stadium Corporation officials gave their final stamp of approval on March 15, outlining that the state will acquire the stadium property from Erie County and lease it to the Bills for 30 years.
“We want to ensure that it's designed right. It's built, and it will last another 50 years like the one we have now,” Stephen Gawlik, senior counsel with Empire State Development, said.
The day following the approval, bid packages soliciting work for the project were posted by joint venture Gilbane Building Co. and Turner Construction Co. with 34 Group, project manager Legends Development Group and designer Populous.
The 1.35-million-square-feet, 60,000-seat stadium will be built on the 242-acre site across the street from the team’s current Highmark Stadium, which is anticipated to be demolished after its replacement is complete.
According to reports, the latest bid packages work on the exterior, with packages focused on aluminum and glass, a perforated metal panel system and installation of precast architectural facade elements. They are also looking for subs to furnish and install site utilities and superstructure fill-on-metal deck.
Gilbane | @turner_talk has announced new bid opportunities for the Buffalo Bills new stadium project.— Gilbane Building Co (@GilbaneBuilding) March 20, 2023
Click here to view the latest bid releases and apply: https://t.co/3VCU6nuVPB#BuffaloBillsNewStadium #BuffaloBills https://t.co/R8xwXev6fe
At the end of last month, the Buffalo Bills released four new renderings for the stadium, in conjunction with Legends and Populous. According to the release, the exterior stadium image highlights the team's desire for a visual identity that reflects some of the historical architecture of Buffalo, while also delivering a modern appearance.
Officials plan to have “light work” begin in April, with “big digging” starting in June. The stadium is anticipated to open for the 2026 season.
When talks first started taking place regarding the renovation of the original stadium, the Bills were informed that it would be too expensive to upgrade the facility. As a result of the news, in summer 2021 the team started to consider an extensive line-by-line monetary breakdown of a new, proposed facility.
An announcement was made in March last year that they’d hired architecture firm Populous.
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 in the state budget, which was due in 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 reveal that the project would be the richest public stadium subsidy in history, eclipsing the $750 million taxpayer subsidy for the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders.
Nine days after the deadline for completing the state’s spending plan was due, New York lawmakers announced that a plan was approved and that it 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 is planning to 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 the 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.
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.
In May, the NFL approved a $200 million loan for the stadium construction as well. Thus far, the Pegula family, who own the Bills franchise, have stated they will be providing at least $350 million toward the stadium construction.
That October, Bills officials released the first renderings for its new $1.4 billion open-air stadium. The exterior and interior illustrations provide a glimpse of the project, highlighting the team’s desire for a “visual identity that reflects some of the historical architecture of Buffalo, while also delivering a modern appearance.”
The stadium features a bowl-like shape with stacked seating as a means to better protect fans during football games. The design is also expected to better protect all attendees and players from wind and snowy winters.
In an interview with Buffalo Sports Radio WGR 550, Bills Operating Chief Ron Raccuia said that the canopy surrounding the stadium will cover 65% of all seats in the stadium. The team is also planning to include extensive radiant heating in places for comfort.
While the sports facility will have about 10,000 fewer seats than Highmark Stadium, the team shares that there will be 60,000 seats and 60 suites for fans. The new stadium is also looking to enhance the parking and tailgating experience by creating gathering spots for those who might not have a ticket to the game.
In November, joint venture Gilbane Building Co. and Turner Construction, in association with 34 Group, were selected as the construction managers for the stadium project. The project team also includes the project management firm, Legends Project Development, and Populous as the designer.
Then, in December, owners voted to approve a year-to-year extension on the Buffalo Bills' lease at Highmark Stadium and a 30-year lease agreement for a new stadium. The Buffalo News reported that the two-part agreement includes a non-relocation clause that Gov. Hochul described as “ironclad.” The clause restricts the Bills franchise from leaving the city within the first 14 years of the lease, or else it would have to repay all of the public contributions.
In addition, if the team relocated, it would also be on the hook for the cost of demolition. In the years after, up until 30 years, the financial penalty reportedly declines and would reach zero during the final year of the lease agreement.
Even so, if the team relocated between the 15- and 30-year mark, owners could still be responsible for the demolition of the stadium.
The team had also agreed to cover any cost overruns, which could exceed the Bills’ commitment of $550 million for the project. Reports have indicated that a significant portion of the Bills' contribution will be supported by the NFL's G4 stadium loan fund program and through the sale of personal seat licenses (PSLs).