ALBANY – Work on a state-funded study on possible new sites for a Buffalo Bills stadium continues and the study is expected to be presented by the end of the month, sources said Friday.
Buffalo television stations were reporting that the plan – which is looking at up to four new sites as well as what might be needed to keep the team at its present stadium in Orchard Park – was scheduled to be released Friday.
But sources for several weeks have been telling The Buffalo News that the work involved is highly complex, involving a series of financial, zoning, environmental and other considerations that have pushed back the original release date of the plan.
A team of lawyers, urban planners and architects has visited sites in Western New York, looking at a half-dozen possibilities in Buffalo, as well as suburban sites, such as West Seneca, Niagara Falls and Batavia. The contract with the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo calls for the consultants to put out a report, including case studies of stadium projects in other cities, that identifies three or four new sites for a stadium along with the benefits and drawbacks of each location.
The contract also requires the consultants to examine whether Ralph Wilson Stadium should undergo a major renovation or if a new stadium could be built on adjacent land to keep the team in Orchard Park.
Leading the work is the Manhattan law firm of Foley & Lardner, which helped the state during the 2012 and 2013 stadium lease talks with the Bills that ended with a deal that includes a heavy financial penalty if the team leaves before the seventh year of the contract.
The law firm, which was retained by Cuomo’s economic development agency, then hired AECOM, a Fortune 500 company with extensive background in professional stadium projects, to handle a range of the site work for a Bills stadium.
The end product, which was originally to have been released today, will be used as guidance by Cuomo and possibly the new owners of the team as decisions are made down the road about a possible new stadium.
Potential bidders have gotten the financial books on the Bills, which have been described as a “Bills’-friendly” set of advocacy documents that puts the team’s numbers in the best financial light. Potential bidders have until the end of the month to sign documents stating whether they have an interest in continuing in the process. At that point, a whole host of work will commence in which bidders will seek to verify everything from the kind of construction work underway at the stadium to concession sales and sponsorship agreements.
The team will hold “management presentations” individually with the different bidders to answer further questions before bids are submitted. Precisely what then will happen is still uncertain.
Besides the trust of the late Ralph C. Wilson Jr., the team’s sale also has to be approved by a majority of NFL team owners.