A stadium feasibility study financed by the state of New York backs the Buffalo Bills in their bid to build a new 60,000-seat stadium — either near their existing home or downtown — and says renovating the team’s current facility would be cost-prohibitive.
The study, released Tuesday, estimates that a new stadium at the Bills’ proposed location, across the street from their current home in Orchard Park, would cost $1.354 billion. Building one downtown would, at a minimum, add $750 million because of the need to acquire land and make necessary infrastructure upgrades.
Multinational engineering and consulting firm AECOM all but ruled out renovating the 48-year-old Highmark Stadium, projecting it would cost about $862 million.
AECOM based its findings on the proposal the Bills submitted to the state government this summer. It did not recommend either the Orchard Park or downtown site. That decision will be left to the state, Erie County and the Bills in negotiations, which are expected to resume shortly.
The key issue is how much money the state and county will be required to commit, with the Bills anticipating taxpayers will be asked to bear more than 50% of the cost.
Though the Bills’ lease on their current stadium doesn’t expire for 21 more months, time is running short on reaching a financing agreement.
“If we get to January and there’s no new deal done, you should really be concerned,” Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive vice president Ron Raccuia told The Associated Press last weekend. PSE is the Bills’ parent company, with Raccuia overseeing stadium negotiations.
What happens beyond that is uncertain.
Bills officials have maintained they are solely focused on reaching an agreement with state and county officials to help finance the new stadium. And yet, the threat relocation is a possibility — even though it has not been raised in talks.
Having a deal in place by January would allow Gov. Kathy Hochul to include stadium funding in her budget proposal for approval in April. With Hochul up for election next fall, it’s unlikely she will have time for negotiations while campaigning.
The Bills, meanwhile, are concerned they might have go back to square one in negotiations should there be another change in governor.
Hochul, who is from Buffalo, is well aware of the time constraints, saying last week it is her intention to have a deal in place in time for the budget.