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Roger Goodell backs new Bills stadium: 'I want them to be competitive here'

BATAVIA — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he continues to believe the Buffalo Bills need a new stadium.

The Jamestown native reiterated that position Monday before teeing off in the annual Jim Kelly Celebrity Golf Tournament at Terry Hills Country Club.

"The reason why I'm supportive is because I want to make sure this franchise remains stable here, and continues, and remains competitive," Goodell told reporters. "And I think it's great for this community. And we've been able to do these stadiums in such a way that it creates a tremendous economic benefit, too.

"I want the Bills to be successful and I want them to continue to be competitive here in Buffalo."

The remarks are similar to those Goodell made at Kelly's tournament in 2016, noting then that owners Terry and Kim Pegula should begin examining stadium options.

The Bills' lease with Erie County, which owns New Era Field, expires in 2023.

“I think that’s one of the things Terry’s going through,” Goodell said at the time, “trying to see what it takes to make sure the Bills remain here on a successful basis. That's their objective and I know that’s their commitment. We fully support that.

“Stadiums are important, just to making sure the team here can continue to compete not only throughout the NFL but also to compete in this environment, because we’ve got great facilities here now. The Bills have to stay up with that.”

At the NFL owners meetings, Terry Pegula said the NFL "more or less" wants to "see something done one way or the other."

He added, "We're one of the smaller markets and any way we can increase our revenue, they're for it."

[RELATED: The 10 newest stadiums in the NFL — and what Buffalo can learn from them]

Goodell said the Pegulas are "doing the work and talking about what it takes and what do they need" regarding their stadium situation.

Ownership has commissioned a market research study from CAA ICON, a Denver-based company. According to PSE, the intent of the survey is to examine "potential stadium sites, design, and financial planning for all options." That includes renovation of the current stadium. More than 30,000 people have been surveyed, Kim Pegula said at the owners meetings.

The results of the survey are expected to be available this summer, Terry Pegula said, though the county and other entities also could conduct surveys.

"I think the answer is probably a scaled-down version of some of these palaces that are being built around the country," Pegula said at the meetings. "The thing (Rams owner) Stan (Kroenke) is building in L.A. is amazing, Jerry Jones' facility in Dallas. So we need to do something that's Buffalo style."

The stadium in Dallas was built 10 years ago for $1.2 billion. The stadium complex for the Rams and Chargers is expected to cost $5 billion and open in time for the 2020 season.

"With each one of these, there's no secret sauce," the commissioner said. "What works in Dallas doesn't work in Buffalo necessarily."

Asked if he would be willing to pay for a new stadium, Pegula said, "I don't know."

On Monday, Goodell said $13 billion has been spent on stadiums in the last eight years, with $11 billion from private money. He noted that "there's also ways for the public to participate" in funding the construction of a stadium.

“It's not always about the NFL building (stadiums), it’s a public-private partnership in almost every case," Goodell said. "These stadiums are complicated, they’re difficult, and that’s exactly why discussions have to go on between the public sector and the private sector to figure out what’s best for the community. How do we develop this? How do we do it right? And we’ve been really successful in doing that around the country."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has suggested that a renovation might be more beneficial than a new stadium. He has noted that $130 million was earmarked for New Era Field upgrades in the last lease agreement.  The Pegulas have invested $36 million in the last two years, including $18 million on a sports performance center. The stadium is also getting new turf this spring.

“Commissioner Goodell’s comments are the same thing he’s said for years now," Poloncarz said in a statement. "It should be noted, as Commissioner, he is beholden to a group of 32 very wealthy team owners, including those with teams in many larger markets, with very different stadium situations in their communities than the Bills have here in Buffalo. His interest lies not with our community but with the owners that employ him and the highest level of profit he can deliver for them. Many of these owners have placed heavy demands on their fan base and community as well, demands that could not be met in our smaller market. However, members of Bills’ Nation will at least be relieved to hear that Commissioner Goodell wants the Bills to be successful and competitive here in Buffalo.

"We meet with the Bills regularly and will continue to do so to discuss all matters related to the stadium, including ensuring the security of the fans and maintenance of the current facility as well as what the future will bring. From our discussions I know Terry and Kim Pegula are committed to Buffalo and Erie County, and we are as fully committed as anyone to keeping the team here in a facility that works for all: the team and the community. Serious stadium negotiations will not commence until after the completion of the CAA Icon report, though we have had preliminary discussions on the matter. As with any negotiation, all options are on the table, including additional renovations or a retrofit of the current facility, and I look forward to representing Erie County when those negotiations commence.”

[RELATED: New Bills stadium would be "scaled-down ... Buffalo style," Terry Pegula says]

Goodell on Monday said that Buffalo being one of the smaller markets in the NFL does not present a greater challenge for a new stadium to be built than in other locations.

"It's not that we haven't had this in every market size," he said. "So stadiums are important to the franchise. They're important to the competitiveness as well as important for the fans. You know, the fans expect a higher quality stadium than they did 20 years ago, and more technology and more of the things that will bring them out of their homes to go to a football game."

The commissioner praised the Pegulas for the stability they have brought to the Bills since purchasing the team in 2014.

"I think they love the community," Goodell said. "They want a winner. They care about winning; they care about doing things right in this community. And I think they they've taken in that approach. They've taken the long-term approach to say, 'Let's build a winner here, but let's also do it in a way the community is going to be proud of this franchise.' And I think they have. And I know, at the NFL, we're fortunate to have the Pegulas. Both Terry and Kim have been active on the league level and, so, we're happy to have them here."

News reporter Sandra Tan contributed to this story.

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