The 10-year lease deal that keeps the Buffalo Bills playing in Orchard Park is a good one, and a $400 million relocation penalty makes it even better.
The terms create a difficult, though not impossible, scenario of the team one day leaving town. Beyond the financial penalty, league rules require 24 of the 32 clubs, or 75 percent of the National Football League owners, to agree to move a team. That makes this latest announcement a better-than-good development.
If that isn’t enough, Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon in a press conference Friday guaranteed the Bills will remain for years to come. Brandon should be reminded of his enthusiastic declaration if, and likely when, the issue of relocation comes up again.
Plus, Forbes valued the team last year around $800 million, which means someone interested in relocating the team would have to decide whether it is worth $1.2 billion, penalty included. And that number will likely increase with a sweetened television deal in the next negotiation.
It’s not until after the seventh year of the contract that the Bills could pull out with only a $29 million penalty. Considering it wasn’t too long ago that a buyout fee well above $50 million and possibly as high as $100 million was being bandied about as an absolute top limit, this isn’t bad.
This was a huge announcement, first broken by The News and officially delivered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo by satellite, along with Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Buffalo Bills executives.
The deal includes $130 million in stadium renovations for the nearly 40-year-old structure, with the county, state and team exploring the possibility of a new stadium down the road if financially feasible. The Bills will pay $35 million and the state and county will share the remaining $95 million in renovation costs.
The three-party negotiations have turned the tide for football in this area. Knowing the team will be here for seven years under the $400 million penalty threat is comforting. The current lease expires July 31.
Coming to terms wasn’t easy. Team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. has said the team will not move while he is still living but that won’t last forever. And the team’s succession plan involves putting it in a trust and selling it to the highest bidder.
In fact, the latest lease agreement and its “penalty” offer no guarantee that the Wilson heirs or a prospective purchaser won’t move the team to Los Angeles and suffer the penalty. But the issue is about more than money. Losing the Buffalo Bills would be a devastating blow to Western New York, and that is simply unacceptable.
So, yes fans should be pleased. Next year: Super Bowl.