ALBANY – The negotiations for a new Buffalo Bills stadium have barely started, but the state and the team already seem to be on different pages.
The Buffalo News reported Sunday that the team is seeking at least $1.1 billion from the state to build a new stadium for the team in Orchard Park, according to interviews with multiple sources over the past couple of weeks.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the team’s owners, have pitched a $1.5 billion proposal for a new stadium in Orchard Park and to help cover some renovation costs at KeyBank Center downtown.
A spokesman for Pegula Sports & Entertainment said the $1.1 billion figure was inaccurate, but declined to say if the figure was higher or lower.
A newly constructed NFL stadium for $1.1 billion, based on facilities built in the past decade or so, would be more than a bargain, but the Bills have not made public any specifics that would affect the cost – such as the number of seats or other such details.
If the team, as government officials have been told, is seeking a deal in which public cash and tax breaks cover the full costs for a new stadium, the request would likely be higher than $1.1 billion.
Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for Pegula Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Bills and Buffalo Sabres – an NHL franchise – also said the company is not seeking any public assistance for updates to KeyBank Center, the downtown Buffalo home to the Sabres.
The News reported Sunday that sources with knowledge of the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the idea of the state and Erie County also paying for some rehabilitation of the county-owned KeyBank Center has been floated by Pegula representatives in recent weeks. Wilkinson called such a request "pure fiction."
Wilkinson said such a request for KeyBank funding by the government is not and has not been a part of the discussions over a new stadium for the Bills.
The Buffalo News on Sunday, based on well-placed sources, said the Pegula company is asking for a 100% taxpayer-funded package of $1.5 billion for a new stadium for the Bills and work at the Sabres arena. A spokesman for the teams last week declined to comment .
The Pegula spokesman did not dispute that the company is seeking a public financing arrangement for a new Bills stadium, which people in Albany and Buffalo have been told would be in Orchard Park, adjacent to the team’s existing stadium.
But Wilkinson said a new stadium built – and owned – by taxpayers wouldn't be unprecedented in NFL stadium deals over the years. One frequently cited is Raymond James Stadium. The home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was built in 1998 and paid for through a sales tax increase and funds from tourism taxes.
Social media was ablaze Sunday with talk of a major public financing deal being sought by Kim and Terry Pegula for a new Bills stadium. Reaction to The News' article was predictably mixed, with some supporting public money for a new stadium, while others sharply criticized the idea of taxpayer money to support a lucrative NFL team.
A person with knowledge of the discussions among the team, the state and Erie County said the team had not threatened to move the Bills to another city if a major public financing arrangement was not settled upon. But the source said the team made clear that other cities are interested in getting an NFL franchise.