Buffalo Bills owners committed to paying for portion of proposed stadium's costs

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Rumors of a 100% taxpayer-funded stadium for the Buffalo Bills appear to have been just that -- rumors.

Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula will pay at least a portion of the team's next stadium's construction costs, they said through a statement to The Associated Press. This in the wake of reports they requested for Erie County taxpayers to foot the entire bill and rumors that they would move the team to Austin, Texas, if that request was not granted.

"When it comes to the future new home of the Bills, [the Pegulas] have always known that, like virtually all NFL stadiums, this will ultimately be some form of a public/private partnership,'' Pegula Sports and Entertainment senior vice president Ron Raccuia told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The exact split is not yet known as negotiations continue; the Bills' 10-year lease at current Highmark Stadium expires in July 2023.

Under the Pegula's most recent proposal, Buffalo's next stadium will be located across the street from its current lot in Orchard Park and will cost a projected $1.4 billion, The Associated Press reports. Renovating Highmark Stadium is not a realistic option, as the cost to do so is considered to be too expensive; a study in 2014 estimated structural and modern-day upgrades to cost $540 million.

Rumors of a potential relocation first surfaced in early August after a report from The Buffalo News. Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz put an abrupt stop to those rumors, expressing confidence that "a fair deal for all" would be reached -- although the county would not be offering "a blank check" for stadium costs.

"I want the public to understand there's been no gun put to the head of Erie County and New York state stating, 'If you do not do this, we are moving,'" he said. "I want people to understand negotiations are a long process. ... A negotiation takes time. It takes compromise on both sides."

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native who will be sworn in as the state's 57th governor following Andrew Cuomo's resignation scheduled for Aug. 24, said the state is "not feeling threatened" about the possibility of a Bills relocation. Cuomo was a longtime supporter of keeping the Bills in Buffalo as was former owner and team founder Ralph Wilson, who implemented a non-relocation clause in the team's current 10-year lease to stave off any potential buyer who wanted to move the Bills elsewhere.