The Bills could have pulled the plug early on their lease at New Era Field. They’ve given early notice that they don’t intend to do so.
Via the Buffalo News, the team informed the Erie County Executive Marc Poloncarz on Friday that the early-termination clause will not be exercised. If the Bills had chosen otherwise, the lease would have expired on July 30 of this year. And that would have made the Bills geographic free agents for the 2020 season.
Poloncarz said via Twitter that he requested the letter as a showing of “commitment and good faith” from the Bills organization. The Bills had until February 28 to provide written notice of the intention to opt out early.
Terry and Kim Pegula, owners of the team, issued a statement on Wednesday acknowledging that a study had been completed regarding “potential stadium sites, design, and financial planning for all options.” The primary options seem to be building a new stadium and renovating the current one, which opened in 1973.
Also on Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Bills and the local government need to “settle collectively” on an approach “over the next several months, if not sooner.” Although Goodell added that he wants the team to stay in Buffalo, he added that the team’s stadium must be “competitive” with other NFL venues.
Last year, Goodell made a bit of a stir in Buffalo by indicating that the best solution would be a new stadium.
However it plays out, the Bills’ stadium lease definitely expires in July 2023. Which is only three NFL seasons away. And it goes without saying, given the recent relocations of the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders, that moving the team to a place that will pony up more public money (or at a minimum using a place like that as leverage to get more money in Buffalo) cannot be ruled out.
Especially since Kim Pegula already has said that the money spent to buy the team has left the Pegulas without the resources to pay for their own stadium.
Football is family, until football is business. Actually, football is a business that realizes slogans like “football is family” are good for business. The sooner the folks in Buffalo realize that, the better the chances that someone will accept the reality that the piggy bank needs to be busted open locally before some other city without an NFL team (like St. Louis) decides to make the Pegulas an offer they won’t refuse.