Bills making progress on lease extension

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While 93-year-old Bills owner Ralph Wilson may have no desire to sell the team during his lifetime to someone committed to keeping the franchise in Buffalo, Wilson can make it difficult if not impossible for the next owner to relocate any time soon.

And so the Bills and Erie County officials are working toward a new lease that, depending on the language of the final document, could make it so expensive to move the team that only buyers intent on keeping the franchise where it is will make offers for the team, once Wilson’s lifetime ends.  Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tells the Associated Press that a basic agreement on a new lease could be reached by the end of July.

Step One would entail the negotiation of a “memorandum of understanding,” which would be followed by the full-blown lease.  The current deal expires in July 2013, which means that the Bills could become free agents after the coming season.

Which also means that time is of the essence, in more ways than one.

Poloncarz says the team has “provided assurances of their commitment to stay in Buffalo.”  Still, the only way to ensure that commitment will still exist when someone other than Wilson owns the team is to beef up the lease with terms that would make it difficult if not outright impossible to escape within the next 20 years, or longer.

The Bills are seeking roughly $200 million in upgrades to Ralph Wilson Stadium, a fairly modest amount for a facility that opened nearly 40 years ago.  The challenge will be for the team, the county, and the state to work out a plan for sharing in the costs of the improvements.

The county definitely has an incentive to ensure that the team’s stay extends, indefinitely.

“We’re not New York City, we’re not Chicago, we’re not Boston, and we never will be,” Poloncarz said.  “But I certainly like us to be greater than other cities out there of comparable size that wish they had an NFL team.  Well, we have one, and I have no intention of seeing that team leave on my watch.”

Ralph Wilson has no intention of seeing the team leave on his watch, either.  And he’s in position to ensure that the lease will keep the next owner from seeing the team leave on his watch, too.

16 responses to “Bills making progress on lease extension

  1. While I would lead the charge against yet another new publically funded stadium, $200 million in renovations to a 40 yr old stadium seems reasonable (sadly). Just make sure you put in a $billion poison pill should the team decide to move in the next 20 yrs.

  2. What’s the big deal. Everybody from Buffalo lives in Charlotte, NC now. I’d gladly help them back if they want to move back to an upgraded Bills stadium.

  3. RW Stadium is not the prettiest place, but it’s one of the best places to experience an NFL game. I already knew that, but my friends who are die-hard Jets, Pats, and Browns fans tell me that as well.

  4. That greatly reduces the value of the team, when the family does decide to sell it.

  5. 200 million in improvements… Really I don’t see anything wrong with doing this in every city that has a facility needing upgraded.. Why are owners insisting on taking the most expensive route? Why tear down these monuments and build new ones? Considering the economy this should be the way that everyone is handling the stadium issues they come across.. At least until we see some type of economic boom where building new ones actually makes financial sense for the party’s involved…

  6. Unfortunately many stadiums of 40 years ago had bad designs, making it more difficult to make the sort of improvements that are necessary to compete in today’s business model. Lucky for Buffalo, their stadium is of a classic, yet basic design and never possessed a bad seat in the house. If I told someone who was just visiting for the 1st time that it was built 10 years ago, they would believe it, as the organization has consistantly made improvements throughout the years.

  7. Why is there always all this talk on these boards about a new stadium? Im from Buffalo. Im a season ticket holder. WE DO NOT WANT A NEW STADIUM. We do not NEED a new stadium. Yes we do not have a fancy stadium with a mile long jumbotron, but we dont need it. We are what we are. The Ralph is our home. That is all. CHANpionship!

  8. Could you imagine being a child so spoiled that you would want to sell one of the most storied franchises in the most popular sport in North America when you inherit it? Good for Ralph to have the foresight for the good fans/people of buffalo. Leave the Bills in Buffalo. Forever.

  9. “We’re not New York City, we’re not Chicago, we’re not Boston, and we never will be,” Poloncarz said.


  10. This wouldn’t be an issue.. NY state had the funds but our politicians did what they always do.. They gave our hard earned tax dollars to NYC to build a basketball arena in the Bronx!! Upstate and Western NY always get screwed at the expense of NYC.

  11. after experiencing bills fans for the first time last year the team would be better off moving to Bum F#*k Idaho.

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