ALBANY – One of the state negotiators who helped craft last year’s deal to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York says the agreement “buys us seven years’’ to work out an agreement to ensure that whoever ends up owning the team does not move.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, during a stop in Elmira this afternoon, said the deal crafted by the Cuomo administration, the Bills and Erie County gives the sides a “substantial amount of time to make sure that the next ownership team sees the benefit of keeping that team in Buffalo.”
Duffy spent nearly three hours touring renovations under way at the team’s stadium on Tuesday. When he got home to Rochester later in the day, Bills officials called him with the news that team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. had just died.
Duffy, the former mayor of Rochester, who described himself as a life-long Bills fan, said Wilson had ample opportunities to move the team. “He has had a deep sense of loyalty to Buffalo and Western New York since owning the Bills,’’ said Duffy, who was one of the officials Cuomo charged with negotiating the lease deal that includes a $400 million payment by the team to the state if it moves before seven years.
“The Bills will be staying in Buffalo for at least seven years regardless of the ownership changes,’’ Duffy said Wednesday. “And the NFL was intimately involved with those negotiations,’’ he added of the talks that began in 2012 and concluded in early 2013.
“The Buffalo Bills is a class organization … They’ll be good for seven years, and it’s really incumbent upon the Bills, the state and Erie County to work hard to keep that team there beyond seven years because that team means so much to Western New York and New York state. We don’t want to lose them.’’