City of Buffalo

Latest On Bills’ Future In Buffalo

The Bills will remain in Buffalo in 2020. There never seemed to be any notion that another outcome was on the table, but technically it was a possibility that the Bills could be playing elsewhere as soon as next season.

The team’s lease with New Era Field expires in July 2023, but the lease contains an early termination clause that the Bills could have exercised by February 28 of this year. If they had done so, the lease would have terminated on July 30, thereby making the club a geographic free agent.

Per Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Erie County Executive Marc Poloncarz pressed Bills ownership for a commitment, and Terry and Kim Pegula informed Poloncarz on Friday that the team would not be exercising the early termination option. But the team’s future in western New York remains in doubt.

Last June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it very clear that the Pegulas will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills in Buffalo, and he reiterated those sentiments on Wednesday. Goodell said the Bills and the local government need to settle on an approach within the next several months, and he noted that the team’s stadium will need to remain competitive with other sites around the league.

The Pegulas have not yet wavered in their commitment to keeping the Bills where they have been since they joined the AFL in 1960, and they want to either renovate the current stadium — which opened in 1973 — or build a new one. They issued a statement on Wednesday indicating that a study into potential stadium sites, designs, and financial options had been completed, but it’s unclear if that study has pushed this matter any closer to a resolution.

Florio suggests that, the longer the Bills go without a long-term plan in place, the more offers will come flooding in from other cities anxious to get an NFL franchise. Those offers could be especially tempting to the Pegulas, who do not have the personal resources to fund a stadium themselves.

Toronto has long been rumored as a potential future home for the Bills, but when asked about the possibility of a team north of the border, Goodell reiterated his usual stance, saying that one of the foremost requirements is a stadium that meets NFL standards (Twitter link via Farhan Lalji of TSN).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Ownership Remains Committed To Buffalo

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ruffled some feathers in Buffalo earlier this month when, speaking at Jim Kelly‘s annual charity golf tournament, he said he believes that a new stadium is essential to the stability of the Bills’ franchise. He went on to say that team ownership will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

That is not the first time Goodell has made comments of that sort, but it still set off a few alarm bells. Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, though, attempted to downplay the ominous nature of Goodell’s remarks. In an interview with the Associated Press (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Kim Pegula said, “Roger knows where we stand. We weren’t at all upset or thought that he was trying to say anything differently.”

The Pegulas are committed to keeping the Bills right where they are, but they also acknowledge that getting a new stadium to make good on that commitment won’t be easy. Kim Pegula said, “It’s a big, big nut to crack. It’s going to take some patience on everyone’s part.”

As Florio observes, it remains to be seen whether the Pegulas can secure enough private funding from the league and enough public money from the city to make a new stadium feasible, and whether the new stadium would even be a viable long-term investment. One factor that could have a major impact on the Bills’ fate could be stadium credits, a system in which revenue that would otherwise be shared by management and players would instead be funneled into the construction and renovation of stadiums. That issue is not being talked about much right now, but it is likely to become a key component of the upcoming CBA negotiations between the league and the union.

Florio also opines that the Pegulas’ commitment to Buffalo may not be the best way to maximize their leverage with the city, and if they want to get as much public funding as possible for a new stadium, they may need to threaten relocation and stop attempting to placate the fan base.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.