NFL owners on Monday voted 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 formally reviewed the deal during the NFL’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.
“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 $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, which was hammered out in negotiations throughout the summer and late fall, 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.
Just as in the lease deal that was signed in 1997, the contract calls for government funding to be provided to the team for stadium operating costs. Those total about $11 million a year.
When all the pots are added up, the total deal is $271.52 million, according to county officials. Of that total, the Bills will pay $44.6 million (16.5 percent), the state will pay $123.5 million (45.5 percent), and the county will pay $103.3 million (38 percent).
Fitzpatrick to Titans
Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick agreed to a two-year contract with the Tennessee Titans, according to several media outlets. The Titans moved to sign Fitzpatrick just hours after releasing 37-year-old veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Tennessee’s prospective starting quarterback is 24-year-old Jake Locker, a two-year veteran who went 4-7 as a starter last season. Fitzpatrick, 30, posted a 20-33 record as a starter for the Bills over the past four seasons. The other quarterbacks on the Titans’ roster are third-stringer Rusty Smith and second-year man Nathan Enderle.
The release of Hasselbeck was due to financial considerations. He was scheduled to make $5.5 million, and he would have counted $7.5 million against the salary cap.
NFL, ex-players settle
MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL has agreed to pay $42 million as part of a settlement with a group of retired players who challenged the league over using their names and images without their consent.
The league will use the money to fund a “common good” trust over the next eight years that will help retired players with an array of issues including medical expenses, housing and career transition. The settlement also establishes a licensing agency for retired players to ensure they are compensated for the use of their identities in promotional materials.
“We look forward to building an unprecedented new relationship with retired players that will benefit everybody, especially those who need extra medical or financial assistance,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday in a statement issued by the league.
The settlement could improve the frosty relationship between the NFL and many of its retired players who have felt left behind as the league has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Former stars like Mike Ditka, Jim Brown and others have lobbied hard for more help dealing with retired players’ mounting financial difficulties and medical expenses.
Brown called the settlement a “landmark for those who really need it.”
“We were able to finalize this agreement and for the first time in history retired players will be represented at the table,” Brown said.