NFL unanimously approves Buffalo Bills' proposal for new $1.4 billion stadium; Bills reach lease agreement with New York and Erie County

PALM BEACH, FL. -- On the same day that the NFL owners unanimously approved the Buffalo Bills' proposal for a new stadium in Orchard Park, New York, the Bills officially reached an agreement with the state and Erie County on the new $1.4 billion stadium.

The agreement is for a 30-year lease on the stadium that is set to begin with the 2026 season.

"We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park," Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula said in a statement. "We are grateful for the time, efforts and unwavering commitment made by Governor [Kathy] Hochul and her team throughout this process. While there are more hurdles to clear before getting to the finish line, we feel our public-private partnership between New York State, Erie County, led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the National Football League will get us there."

The NFL and the Bills will contribute $550 million with a combined $850 million coming from public funding. $600 million will come from New York state, while Erie County is set to provide $250 million. The economic and tax impacts generated from the team will support more than 100% of the public share of the cost.

"Great day for Western New York, for the Bills, for the NFL," Pegula Sports and Entertainment executive vice president Ron Raccuia said. "This is a great first step. We still have more work to do, but we're excited with what we've accomplished so far."

There are steps remaining for the deal to be finalized. The New York State legislature has to approve the budget, which will include a proposal for the state's contributions to the new stadium, by April 1. Erie County also has to approve the deal.

The $850 million public contribution is expected to be the largest public commitment for an NFL facility. Las Vegas recently contributed $750 million to help the Raiders build a new stadium, while other recent NFL stadiums, specifically SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, were entirely privately funded.

"I went into these negotiations trying to answer three questions -- how long can we keep the Bills in Buffalo, how can we make sure this project benefits the hardworking men and women of western New York and how can we get the best deal for taxpayers?" Hochul said. "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."

The league's contributions are coming via a G4 loan that was also approved at NFL owners meetings this week. The loan will provide $200 million toward construction costs with the Pegulas matching that loan.

Terry Pegula, who made his fortune through oil and gas, has a net worth of $5.8 billion, per Forbes.

The team's current 10-year lease at Highmark Stadium, where the Bills currently play, expires in 2023, but it will be extended until construction on the new facility is concluded. Until the new stadium is complete, the Bills are expected to continue playing at the current stadium.

Since 1973, the Bills have played in the Erie County-owned Highmark Stadium, the fourth-oldest stadium in the NFL. The construction of the stadium was originally 100% publicly financed. New York state will own the new stadium.

The county has put at least $227 million into renovations for the current stadium, over the course of the lease it signed in 2013.

The new stadium will be located across the street from Highmark Stadium and the team's practice facility. Work has already begun on preparing the site; however, a formal breaking ground is expected to take place in spring 2023. It is expected to be a multi-use stadium for outdoor sports, including soccer.

The open-air stadium will feature 60,000-62,000 seats, with the team moving to a personal seat license model for all season tickets to assist in funding from the team-side. A rendering of the new stadium has not yet been finalized, but it is expected to provide some protection from the elements for a majority of the seats. The team has hired Populous, which has worked with a number of NFL teams, to design the stadium.

"I think our fans are going to love this stadium," Raccuia said. "It's going to be built for the Bills, built for the Buffalo fans. They'll really like what we have to offer."