By Tim Graham
Good news, Buffalo Bills fans.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told The Buffalo News that the one-year, patchwork lease option for Ralph Wilson Stadium now is off the table, and all parties are focused on a multiyear agreement again.
Poloncarz told Albany bureau reporter Tom Precious the county, state and club held "substantial talks" Tuesday night. Poloncarz described the negotiations as "very good."
"It's a complicated deal," Poloncarz said this afternoon. "I like the position we're in, but we're not there yet."
The Bills are in the final season of a lease that expires July 31, 2013. The team and county want the state to fund a bulk of Ralph Wilson Stadium renovations that could cost over $200 million.
"It all comes down to we want to ensure this team's here for a significant time period," Poloncarz said. "So if we're going to invest public dollars to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium and assist the Bills with operating assistance as we have in the past, then we also want to ensure they're there for some period."
After his election this year, Poloncarz declared his goal was to have the Ralph Wilson Stadium lease extended by the end of training camp. Negotiations stalled, and he pushed back his target date to the end of the calendar year.
The possibility of a one-year agreement was announced right around the time 94-year-old owner Ralph Wilson was hospitalized with an infection.
A temporary fix would have given the Bills substantial leverage.
Imagine if Wilson were to pass away while the Bills were on a one-year lease. The Bills would have been ownerless and unattached, making them incredibly attractive to any group interested in moving them to Los Angeles.
"There was a discussion at one point," Poloncarz said, "but I think everyone realizes 'Why do a short-term lease if we can get a long-term lease done now?' "