Roger Goodell: Bills must 'stay up' with modern NFL facilities

BATAVIA, N.Y. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated Monday that the Buffalo Bills must explore long-term solutions to upgrade or replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, but he noted that the decisions about the Bills' future rest not with the league but with owners Terry and Kim Pegula and local political leaders.

"I think that's one of the things Terry is going through, and trying to see," Goodell said. "What does it take to make sure that the Bills remain here on a successful basis? That's the objective, and I know that's their commitment. We fully support that. We have league funding that's available to help in that kind of circumstance. Stadiums are important, just to making sure that the team can continue to compete, not only throughout the NFL but also compete in this environment. Because we've got great facilities here now and the Bills have to stay up with that."

Goodell, who was participating in former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly's 30th annual charity golf tournament, has stated twice over the past two years -- most recently at Super Bowl XLIX in January 2015 -- that the Bills need a new stadium to remain viable long term in the Buffalo market.

When asked Monday if not having a new stadium would jeopardize the Pegulas' commitment to remain in Buffalo, Goodell responded, "I don't know about that. I think the reality is the support of the fans is really the key. The business community is important, also. But ultimately the stadium, it has to make sure it can attract it -- both of those elements -- and then generate the revenues necessary to be competitive in the league, ultimately.

"I think every team in the league continues to look at, whether it's a new stadium or a renovation or renovations to their stadium -- they just completed a renovation here -- but ultimately long-term, you have to look down that road. What's the right thing for the franchise and the community?"

Ralph Wilson Stadium, which opened in 1973, is among the NFL's oldest stadiums. The Bills, Erie County and New York state completed a $130 million renovation of the facility in 2014 that team president Russ Brandon and the Pegulas have stressed takes pressure off the team to build a new stadium in the short term.

"Yeah, we talked about that, when the agreement was made with the state," Goodell said. "Is it best to do a big renovation or look to build a new facility and put that money there? Ultimately, those are decisions that are made locally. They're not made by us. We'll support it, through the league funding programs. It's important for them to think long-term also. They got some short-term issues they had to deal with, and they did that."

Goodell said there is no timetable on when the Bills must extensively renovate or replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is owned by Erie County. The team's current lease with the county, which began in 2013, runs through 2022.

"That's all up to Terry and the community leadership," Goodell said Monday. "I like to say nothing is a cookie-cutter approach here. You have to build a stadium that's right for the community. So it's up to the community and Terry to really get focused on, what does it take, what's the right location, what are the alternatives, what it can do to help generate other economic activity. Those are the difficult decisions that have to be made locally. We'll support it any way we can. But ultimately those decisions are made here."

Added Goodell: "I think the world of Terry and Kim. They've made a big difference in the NFL already. They've been very, very active. They feel strongly about this region, as I do. I think they're looking to find the right solutions. They'll work patiently, but they'll also find the right long-term solutions, ultimately."