By Tim Graham
For months, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's goal was to get a Buffalo Bills stadium lease extension hammered out before training camp, which begins next week.
Buffalo News reporter Denise Jewell Gee attended today's news conference, where Poloncarz spoke in general about the county's financial situation. He was asked where negotiations stood with the Bills.
"We've accomplished a lot," Poloncarz said. "Every party knows where the other one stands. Now, it's just that final time where you sort of butt heads with each other until you reach an agreement. So I feel confident we're going to get an agreement done by the end of the year."
Before fans start to panic, keep in mind the lease doesn't expire until July 31, 2013.
Still, Poloncarz's inability to meet his declared objective bears watching. Terms apparently haven't been cut-and-dried so far, and the landscape has been shifting within the past year.
When I spoke to former Erie County Executive Chris Collins last fall and then Poloncarz after he took office in January, each was definitive in saying the state (through the Empire State Development Corp.) would need to pick up most of the costs for needed renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
But with refurbishment costs running around $200 million or more and the governor not including the Bills in this year's budget, there has been talk of the NFL helping to finance the project. The NFL's G-4 program is designed to help teams fund stadium development by matching team contributions over $25 million.
Poloncarz over the weekend told The Buffalo News he wanted the Bills to commit to a lease that will make it difficult to skip town under new ownership. The stipulations Poloncarz wants reportedly are more restrictive than any the Bills have agreed to before.
There's probably no cause for concern. Poloncarz, who took office just a few months ago, likely was being overly ambitious to want an extension done by training camp. And, for a while, Bills fans will be preoccupied with the excitement surrounding the team and won't want to be bothered with lease chatter anyway.
But missing deadlines, however informal, sure does raise the antennae a little bit.
(Photo: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)