Buffalo's Bill: The Buffalo Bills Are Looking For A New Home, Who Will Foot The Bill?
(Photo Credit: Buffalo News)
As Chris Berman would say, “nobody circles the wagon like the Buffalo Bills.” However, recent reports suggest the Buffalo Bills (“Bills”) may be shopping for a new home outside of Buffalo. An ESPN writer reported that Austin, Texas serves as a suitable location if New York State denies the alleged ask by the Pegula family — owners of both the Bills and Buffalo Sabres (“Sabres”) — for taxpayers to ‘100%’ cover the cost for a new stadium.
The Pegulas are allegedly seeking $1.5 billion in their proposal: $1.1 billion allocated to the Bills new stadium and the remaining $400 million for renovations to the Sabres arena. The Plan would take approximately three-to-five years to complete.
Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz, stated per The Buffalo News “There was no statement by the Bills: ‘We’re going to Austin.’” Adding, the Pegula’s never gave any indication that they are looking to leave Buffalo.
The two sides are looking to complete a deal prior to Bills’ lease agreement terminating at the end of the 2023 National Football League (“NFL”) season.
To understand the desire for a new stadium, it is important to note that Highmark Stadium (“Highmark”) (1973) is the third oldest in the NFL, behind Lambeau Field (1967) and Arrowhead Stadium (1972). The Bills spent $22 million to build Highmark, adjusted for inflation today and that equates to $134.6 million. In Comparison, the New Orleans Saints built the Superdome in 1975 for $134 million, equating to $676.7 million today.
The Bills are no strangers to stadium renovations and changes. In 2014, Highmark, then called Ralph Wilson Stadium, underwent a $130 million renovation. The state and county funded nearly three-fourths of the project. Despite the changes, rumblings began around the Bills desire for an entirely new stadium.
In that same year, Terry Pegula — who purchased the Sabres in 2011 for $189 million — purchased the Bills for $1.4 billion, outbidding the likes of Bon Jovi and Donald Trump. The Pegula family publicly stated their desire to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
Two-years later, the Bills and New Era Cap Co. (“New Era”) agreed to a $35 million, seven-year deal for the naming rights of then Ralph Wilson Stadium. Though, the relationship lasted only four years after New Era requested to terminate the contract.
Less than a year later, in March of 2021, the Bills entered a new stadium naming rights deal. A ten-year agreement with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, to name the stadium what it is today, Highmark.
Around the NFL, the cheapest stadium built over the last thirteen years is U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, costing around $1.1 billion; the state and city paid approximately half of the cost.
Looking into recent trends, the Raiders, Chargers, and Rams pose a frightening precedent for the Bills. The Raiders, who recently moved from Oakland to Las Vegas, paid approximately $1.1 billion towards Allegiant Stadium. The public paid around $750 million, nearly 40% of the stadium’s cost. The Los Angeles Chargers and Rams also relocated to build a new stadium, conversely the $5 billion So-Fi stadium was privately funded by the teams’ owners.
However, the Pegulas have not given any public indication that they plan on relocating the Bills outside of Buffalo.
Three teams, three re-locations, and two new stadiums later would tell a gambling man to bet the house on the Bills loading their wagons and heading south to Texas. However, recency bias is just that — bias. Western New York and the Bills have one of the strongest team-fan relationships in all professional sports.
Despite the initial panic, relocation is not as simple as a team owner snapping their fingers and moving a team. For a team to relocate, they need a three-quarters majority vote from all the NFL owners — twenty-four votes.
Not all twenty-four votes are created equal. Jerry Jones (“Jones”), owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is an influence vote and voice in the NFL. Jones, along with Yankees Global, have ownership stakes in Legends Hospitality (“Legends”). Legends is representing the Pegulas in the new stadium negotiations as well as representing the Bills in selling sponsorships and premium seats in the potential new stadium.
Additionally, by voting for the Bills to relocate to Austin, Jones would be welcoming another NFL franchise into the state of Texas, something rather unlikely.
Sources:  https://twitter.com/SethWickersham/status/1421882529251045379  https://buffalonews.com/news/state-and-regional/buffalo-bills-want-a-new-stadium-and-for-taxpayers-to-foot-the-bill/article_dc794aea-f14a-11eb-a5ae-17fdaa70c27c.html#tracking-source=home-top-story  https://www.rochesterfirst.com/sports/buffalo-bills/bills-planning-new-outdoor-stadium-in-orchard-park/  https://buffalonews.com/news/local/poloncarz-no-blank-check-from-taxpayers-for-buffalo-bills-stadium/article_017bb92c-f565-11eb-9585-73ff6d0e8e78.html