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In light of study, Poloncarz says renovating existing stadium isn't best option

In light of study, Poloncarz says renovating existing stadium isn't best option

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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said it no longer makes financial sense to try and renovate the Bills' current Highmark Stadium. 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, once a strong supporter of renovating Highmark Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills, said Wednesday that a new stadium is the best financial option given the cost projections in a newly released state study.

"It probably does not make sense to do renovations when you are talking about a new stadium that could last more than double the life of a renovation," Poloncarz said. "The cost – while expensive in both regards – is not that much more, astronomically more, than a renovation."

He called the state study an important document as negotiations with the Buffalo Bills move forward. He also said there is still no decision on the location best suited for a stadium.

"The report is a roadmap. It's a guide," he said. "It gives us really definitive information regarding costs, including, potentially, the escalating costs in future years."

A private consulting firm retained by the state recommended to Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration that the Buffalo Bills should build a new stadium rather than renovate the existing Highmark Stadium. California-based AECOM projects a new stadium would cost $1.35 billion on adjoining county-owned property in Orchard Park next to Highmark Stadium, versus $862 million to renovate the existing stadium.

The study does not specifically recommend one way or another on whether the new stadium should be in Orchard Park or, as some prefer, in downtown Buffalo. But AECOM said building an NFL stadium downtown would cost hundreds of millions more because of additional infrastructure and land acquisition costs. All told, the AECOM report said a downtown stadium project could end up costing $2.1 billion or more, a figure in line with what the Bills predicted.

The study also indicates that building downtown, while more expensive, would generate more economic benefits because of rising property values.

Poloncarz said he knows many people are "shocked" at the study's finding that the Bills currently generate just $27 million in revenue for the state and county, with the state benefiting from personal income taxes and the county benefiting primarily from sales tax on Bills tickets. He said he does not believe that the modest revenue figure does not include sales tax generated by concessions and other Bills-related spending, he said. 

Poloncarz did not say what location he prefers for a new stadium, but he reiterated that representatives from the City of Buffalo who want a seat at the negotiating table will get one only if they have financial skin in the game.

"It's tough to say you deserve a seat at the table if you're not willing to contribute and help build the stadium," he said.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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