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Negotiations on terms of new lease pick up speed

The major terms of a new lease for the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium could be hammered out before the Bills go to training camp near the end of July, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said Saturday.

"We've had multiple negotiations, and it's starting to pick up at a greater pace," Poloncarz told The Buffalo News. "We all are on a timeline to get the major terms agreed on by the beginning of training camp. That's what we're hopeful of doing."

Those major terms would include the length of the lease, the amount of money being spent for stadium renovations and how those costs would be divided up among the county, New York State and the Bills, Poloncarz suggested.

More time then would be needed to finalize the lease.

"My goal would be to have it all signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the year," the county executive added.

The first phase of the three-year stadium renovation project then could begin some time early next year, perhaps in late winter or early spring.

The Bills are asking for a package of stadium renovations expected to cost somewhere between $200 million and $220 million, Poloncarz confirmed. The final figure then is subject to negotiations among the three parties.

"I'm not saying that's the final price tag," he said. "I can't really say any more than that, because it's all subject to negotiations."

While refusing to discuss any details of the negotiations, Poloncarz did say he hopes the Bills, like other National Football League teams recently or currently refurbishing their stadiums, will foot part of the bill.

"Teams are putting significant dollars into renovation and construction, and I hope the Bills will do the same," the county executive said.

The current 15-year lease on the 39-year-old stadium expires July 31, 2013.

Bills officials couldn't be reached to comment late Saturday.