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By JOHN WAWROW
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills moved one major step closer to breaking ground on their new stadium by June 1 after formally submitting the final contractual agreements — including a detailed 30-year lease — to the county on Tuesday.
The Erie County legislature now has 30 days to review the documents and ratify the agreement. The county’s approval would clear the way for construction on the now-projected $1.5 billion-plus, 60,000-plus seat facility to begin across the street from the Bills current stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The cost of the facility has increased from the original estimate of $1.4 billion.
A majority of the construction on the open-air stadium is expected to be completed in time for the 2026 season.
The finalized agreements were negotiated by the Bills, the state and county, and posted on the county’s website. The details of the agreement were completed a little more than a year after the three parties reached a tentative deal on the project that included a taxpayer commitment of $850 million — the largest public price tag for an NFL facility.
The NFL, through its G4 loan program, and the Bills agreed to commit $550 million in financing, with team owners Terry and Kim Pegula’s share coming in at $350 million, with much of that made up by the team introducing seat licenses for season ticket holders. The Bills are also responsible for covering any construction over-runs beyond $1.4 billion.
“Today marks another significant step taken as we approach a groundbreaking ceremony later this spring,” the Bills, state and county said in a statement.
The notable details in the final agreements include a 30-year lease that features a non-relocation clause in which the Bills would have to pay back all public funding through the first 14 years of the deal. The payback amount drops over the final 16 years of the agreement.
The deal includes a community benefits agreement in which the Bills will commit $3 million annually toward social, educational purposes and the economic health of the region. The Bills also agreed to include a public transportation hub as well as sidewalks and pathways for fans and employees to access the facility.
The agreement also extends the current stadium’s lease to July 31, 2028.
The state is committing $600 million toward constructions costs as well as another $280 million to cover maintenance and operational costs over the 30-year period. The state is taking over sole control of the new stadium after previously sharing the lease with the county.
The new facility will replace the Bills current stadium, which opened in 1973 and was deemed too expensive to renovate. A state study in November 2021 pegged renovation costs at $862 million.
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