By JOHN WAWROW
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — State and county taxpayers will be asked to commit $850 million in public funds toward construction of the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium — which has a state-projected price tag of $1.4 billion — as part of a 30-year lease agreement reached on Monday.
New York state will commit $600 million in funds, which will be in included in the budget due on Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in a press release. Erie County will commit $250 million toward the project, with the NFL and the Buffalo Bills committing $550 million in financing.
The dollar amount is considered to be the largest public commitment for an NFL facility. The deal is meant to secure the NFL team’s long-term future in Buffalo, with the proposed 60,000-plus-seat facility to be built across the street from the Bills’ current stadium.
Although the taxpayer burden of 60% is considered high, the agreed upon funding falls in line historically. The state and county have shared about 73% of the cost to build, maintain and upgrade the Bills’ existing facility, now called Highmark Stadium, which opened in 1973.
“I went into these negotiations trying to answer three questions — how long can we keep the Bills in Buffalo, how can we make sure this project benefits the hard-working men and women of Western New York and how can we get the best deal for taxpayers?” Hochul, a Buffalo native, said in a released statement. “I’m pleased that after months of negotiations, we’ve come out with the best answers possible.”
Without going into detail, Hochul said the project will create 10,000 union jobs with the commitment recouped by the economic activity generated by the team. The state previously projected the Bills — the only NFL team actually based in New York — generate $27 million in direct annual income for the state.
The announcement came as the the Bills’ stadium proposal was approved at the NFL’s owners meetings in Florida. Owners also approved granting the Bills what’s called a $200 million G4 loan to go toward construction costs.
Under the G4 program rules, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are required to at least match the loan.
The NFL’s $200 million contribution was already factored in as part of the funding package.
Hochul did not include the Bills stadium commitment in the $216 billion budget proposal submitted in January, which will now be added this week. Hochul said there are numerous options at her disposal to draw upon the necessary money to fund the project.
The Buffalo News previously reported the largest commitment of taxpayer funds for an NFL stadium involved the Las Vegas Raiders, with $750 million of public funds directed toward constructing the $1.97 billion Allegiant Stadium, which opened in 2020.
There have been, however, higher splits of public-private funds for NFL facilities, the newspaper found. Taxpayers covered 86% of the $720 million cost to build the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008. The public commitment for the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000, covered $425 million of the $450 million construction costs.
The Bills’ existing facility was deemed too expensive to renovate. A state study in November pegged renovation costs at $862 million.
If approved, the Bills project the new facility could be built in time for the start of the 2026 season. The Bills’ existing lease with the state and county runs through July 2023.