By Mark Gaughan
NFL owners voted today to approve the new lease agreement between the Buffalo Bills, New York State and Erie County.
The Bills, the state and the county reached a memorandum of understanding on a 10-year lease extension in December that will provide for $130 million in renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The owners are convening at the NFL's annual meeting in Phoenix.
"On behalf of Ralph Wilson and the entire Bills organization, we are pleased to announce that NFL ownership today approved the financial terms and conditions of our new lease for, and the renovation of, Ralph Wilson Stadium," said Russ Brandon, Bills president and chief executive officer, in a statement. "This is another important step in the process toward finalizing the related definitive agreements and remaining on schedule to begin the improvements this year. We anticipate the final approval by the Erie County Legislature and the New York State Legislature in the next couple weeks."
The Bills' old lease with the state and county was to expire on July 31. Under the terms of the new agreement, Erie County will pay $41 million for upgrades at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The state will pay for $54 million in renovations. The Bills will contribute $35 million.
Among the proposed Ralph Wilson Stadium upgrades outlined in the memorandum of understanding are a new $8.76 million high-definition scoreboard, an $8.33 million expansion and renovation of the east end-zone concourse and $7.1 million on entry plazas with wrought-iron security fences. Other planned improvements include a $7.68 million expansion to the training facility and $3.7 million for an operations and storage complex.
The deal will run through 2023. There is a penalty of $400 million if the team were to leave Western New York in the first seven years of the agreement. However, after the seventh year, the Bills have a one-time option to buy out the remaining three years of the deal for $28.4 million.