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City, Bisons agree to 3-year lease extension

The Buffalo Bisons can celebrate Opening Day and a three-year lease extension all in one week.

The Common Council on Tuesday is set to approve the lease agreement for Coca-Cola Field, where the Bisons open their season on Thursday.  The agreement is based essentially on the same terms as the one-year extensions that the city has put in place annually since 2008, said assistant corporation counsel John Heffron.

But the Bisons' organization requested a longer lease, probably to create more planning certainty, Heffron said.

"I’m not sure, but I’m going to guess it was stability," he said, adding that in 1988, when the stadium opened, the city had a lease term of 20 years.

"Since 2008, there have been year-to-year lease extensions," Heffron said.

"It was a mutual agreement," Jonathan A. Dandes, president of Rich Baseball Operations, said about the multiyear lease. "It makes all of our lives easier."

The arrangement for Coca-Cola Field will last through Sept. 30, 2019.

The proposed extension – as in years past – includes the reimbursement of utility costs up to $30,000 annually.

Also consistent with previous one-year agreements, the city will pay for stadium property damage insurance at a premium of up to approximately $50,000 each year, and it will continue to provide refuse and garbage collection worth $38,000 annually.

And the city will pay $20,000 annually for water at the stadium, Heffron said.

Neither the city nor the Bisons are committing to any capital repairs during the extended term, Heffron said, adding there have been a number of improvements and upgrades since 1988.

The city, for instance, secured a $900,000 grant from the Department of Energy to fund a stadium lighting project.

In addition, the Bisons have installed a new scoreboard and a new field. And 18,000 seats are being replaced with bigger seats, bringing the number down to 15,000, Heffron said. That project started in 2014 and 6,000 new seats have been installed so far, according to Bisons officials, with no firm target date for completing the replacements.

Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said it would be a good idea to look into longer-term leases with other organizations like Kleinhans Music Hall. Rivera is a board member of Kleinhans and highlighted some benefits of longer-term leases, including when it comes to soliciting funds and the time consumed by annual lease negotiations.

"By the time we sign a lease, it’s almost time to sign the next lease," Rivera said.

Another advantage to extending agreements for more than one year is that it could help organizations with their funding drives by showing that they will be operating at a site for longer than a year, Rivera added.

"It only helps the city because they’re raising money to improve a building the city owns," Rivera said.

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