MIAMI – The NFL no longer seems to be pushing for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
A "significant renovation" of New Era Field would apparently satisfy the league's desire for the Bills to have an improved venue, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday.
In a statement released later in the day, Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula said a market research study they commissioned from Denver-based CAA ICON last year has been completed. The intent of the survey was to examine "potential stadium sites, design, and financial planning for all options." That included renovation of New Era Field. More than 30,000 people were surveyed, Kim Pegula said at the NFL owners meetings last March, but the findings were never meant to be made public.
“Our privately funded stadium study with CAA ICON is complete and we’re working internally to determine the next steps regarding any future plans for the home of the Buffalo Bills," the Pegulas' statement said.
During his Super Bowl news conference, Goodell reiterated the league view that stadiums play a vital role in how teams are able to compete.
"A stadium that is going to be competitive with other stadiums around the league is going to be important in that context and I think everyone’s committed to that, whether it’s a new significant renovation or whether it’s a completely new facility in a new location," Goodell said, when asked about the status of the Bills' stadium situation.
As recently as last June, at Jim Kelly's annual celebrity golf tournament in Batavia, Goodell voiced strong support for the need for a new home for the Bills. That was consistent with what he and league owners had been saying in recent years.
"We all want the Buffalo Bills to continue to be in Buffalo, to be successful," he said Wednesday, in advance of Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
Goodell also emphasized it would take a "collaborative process" between the Bills and "the public sector" to achieve either a renovation or construction of a new stadium.
The Bills' 10-year lease for New Era Field with New York State and Erie County is due to expire in 2023. The commissioner didn't offer a specific timetable on when any decision of the direction the team and public entities would go with a stadium would be finalized. However, he did make it clear that he was expecting a resolution in the not-too-distant future.
"I think those are things that the group has to settle collectively and to address over the next several months, if not sooner,” Goodell said.
In June, Goodell did not explicitly state the need for a new stadium. However, his remarks indicated that was his preference. "I think it's great for this community," he told reporters then. "And we've been able to do these stadiums in such a way that it creates a tremendous economic benefit, too."
At the time, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz responded by noting the financial demands on other communities with NFL teams when it comes to the stadium issue.
"(Goodell's) interest lies not with our community but with the owners that employ him and the highest level of profit he can deliver for them," Poloncarz said in a statement. "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."
At the NFL owners meetings last March, 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."
"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."
After Pegula's comments, Poloncarz said, "We know if we can extend the lifespan of that stadium for another 25 years, and if it worked for our market, why would we not do that?"