New Buffalo Bills Stadium Would Put Taxpayers on Hook for $850 Million

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has backed a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, with about $850 million of its $1.4 billion total cost to come from the state's and Erie County's taxpayers.

According to a statement from Hochul, the state budget will provide $600 million of that sum, and Erie County will contribute $250 million. The team and the NFL will pay another $550 million. The deal will guarantee that the Buffalo Bills will remain in Buffalo for the next 30 years.

The stadium will be the largest construction project in western New York history, the statement said, as well as the largest taxpayer commitment to an NFL facility, according to the Associated Press. However, Hochul, who became governor in August 2021 while promising a "new era of transparency" after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, said the economic benefits of the stadium will "cover more than 100 percent of [the] public share of stadium funding."

The announcement comes as the funding process behind the construction of new NFL stadiums has attracted attention on Capitol Hill, with Democrats reintroducing a bill last month that would prevent newly built sports stadiums from collecting critical tax breaks.

In the statement, Hochul said she wanted to address three key issues in the deal: keeping the Bills in Buffalo, making sure the deal benefits New York workers and getting "the best deal for taxpayers."

"I'm pleased that after months of negotiations, we've come out with the best answers possible—the Bills will stay in Buffalo for another 30 years, the project will create 10,000 union jobs and New Yorkers can rest assured that their investment will be recouped by the economic activity the team generates," Hochul said.

The statement said the football team generates about $27 million annually, and fans traveling to Buffalo for games and spending money locally will generate approximately another $385 million every year.

But in a brief released earlier this month, New York's Citizens Budget Commission (CBCNY) said an analysis by engineering firm AECOM found a new Bills stadium "is unlikely to drive new private ancillary development in and of itself," adding that new revenue streams for the team will open up via sponsorships and premium seating, but that money will "not necessarily flow through the greater economy in terms of economic or fiscal impact as they represent team profit as well as local expenditures."

CBCNY's brief added that the projected loss from the Bills moving out of Buffalo "is likely to be relatively small, with most disposable consumer income directed toward other recreational and entertainment purchases instead."

"Buffalo residents deserve investments that yield positive, measurable results and the state should ensure the cost-effectiveness of its programs," the report added.

However, moving the Bills out of Buffalo would also have an impact on the community of Buffalo, as the team has been in the city since its founding more than 60 years ago. State Senator Tim Kennedy told The New York Times the community cannot lose the team.

"If the Bills left Western New York, it would be a devastating loss to the psyche and the fabric of our community, so losing the Bills is not an option," he said.

The deal came as Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula expressed disinterest in renewing their lease at the Bills' current stadium, which expires next year, the Times reported. A study from AECOM last year found that renovating the team's current home, Highmark Stadium, would cost about $862 million, according to CBCNY's report.

In the governor's statement, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the deal is fair for the team and for the taxpayers.

"The Buffalo Bills are ingrained in the heart and soul of every Western New Yorker," he said. "It was essential that we entered into an agreement that ensured the team stayed in Buffalo, but was also a fair deal for the people of Erie County and New York. That is exactly the agreement that has been reached."

Update 03/28/22 1:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Kathy Hochul Approves Buffalo Stadium
New York Governor Kathy Hochul backed a plan to build a stadium for the Buffalo Bills. Above, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs scrambles during the second half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium on January 23 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images