Bills stadium gets visit from assembly speaker

Bills stadium study expected to be finished by the end of this month

Mike Baggerman
August 13, 2019 - 7:00 pm

New Era Field. April 26, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WBEN) - County and state leaders continue to emphasize there are no definitive plans on a new Buffalo Bills stadium or a renovation of the current stadium in Orchard Park.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie visited the stadium in Orchard Park on Monday in what he described as his "Non-New York City Tour". His visit, though, re-ignites the topic on the future of the stadium and the capacity to which the state will be involved in any negotiations.

"I'm absolutely supportive of the Bills staying here (in Western New York)," Heastie said. "Beyond that, I spoke to the Bills ownership and there's still an open question as to what they want to be done. Until that point comes, I don't know how to answer (specific) questions other than to say I'm supportive of the Bills being here."

The Bills stadium lease will expire after the 2022-2023 NFL season.

Carl Heastie with Assemblyman Pat Burke, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz at New Era Field. August 13, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Though the state legislature is not directly involved with day-to-day talks over the future of the stadium, Heastie said the assembly should be involved in whatever decisions are made in the future of the Bills stadium. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and his team are the lead group negotiating with Terry and Kim Pegula over the stadium's future.

"I think it's important for the speaker to see the investment of New York State," Poloncarz said. "The governor has certainly been there and I think it's important for (Heastie) to see it as well because it's a continuing investment in regards to not just the money that was put in for the initial renovations but the operating revenues provided on an annual basis."

The timing of Heastie's visit is unique because it comes after last week's announcement that the New York Islanders will receive $1.3 billion from New York State to build a new arena for the team on state land in Long Island. The stadium in Orchard Park is owned by Erie County.

Poloncarz would not comment on state investments into the stadium.

"The state is a good partner right now in regards to the stadium," Poloncarz said. "Anything going forward, the state would have to be a partner in that as well."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said that he'd love to see a Bills stadium in Downtown Buffalo but said that's a decision that needs to be made between Erie County and the Pegulas.

Pegula Sports and Entertainment anticipated the study would take six-to-nine months to complete when they made the initial announcement last November.

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