New York's economic-development arm has extended a contract with a law firm for legal advice on retaining the Buffalo Bills in New York.
Foley and Lardner, LLP, quietly had its contract extended April 16 at a meeting of the state's Empire State Development Corp.
The contract is for three years and is not to exceed $350,000. It calls for the firm to assist Empire State Development with "long-term planning for the retention of the Buffalo Bills in New York, including consideration of substantial renovation of the Ralph Wilson Jr. Stadium."
Cuomo's office also confirmed a Buffalo News report that the state is preparing to hire a firm to develop a presentation to potential bidders showing new stadium locations in western New York.
After owner Ralph Wilson's death earlier this month, the future of the Bills in Buffalo gained immediacy. The team could be sold as soon as this fall, but the team's lease will expire in 2023 and only guarantees the Bills remain in Buffalo through the 2019 season.
"Since day one the Cuomo administration has been aggressive when it comes to keeping the Bills in western New York," Gov. Andrew Cuomo's director of state operations, Howard Glaser, said in a statement. "Foley & Lardner has a proven track record in sports stadium and ownership issues and played a key role in negotiating the ironclad seven-year agreement that kept the team in Buffalo. They will continue to assist in our efforts – including our exploration of a possible new stadium – to convince any potential future owners to keep the team here in New York."
The firm's main contact on the contract is Irwin Raij, a former aide to Cuomo in the 1990s when Cuomo headed the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency. Raij now is a leader of the firm's sport industry department and has advised teams on potential sales, including the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The state initially had a deal with the firm in 2012 to advise on the Bills' future.
"The governor's number one goal is to keep the Buffalo Bills in western New York and Buffalo," Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said following an event in Rochester today. "And we are hoping to do everything we can to make sure that the state ends up doing what it can to help."