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Secrecy evaporates, new details about Bills stadium negotiations shared

Those in the inner circle followed a similar code during negotiations: discussing it in public was not an option. Some of the secrecy has begun evaporating.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's been a little over two weeks since New York State, Erie County, Bills' ownership, and the NFL announced that all parties had come to terms on constructing a new stadium. The $1.4 billion dollar deal was years in the making but negotiations had largely been cloaked in mystery, notwithstanding leaks or exclusive reporting on the inner workings.

While negotiations were happening, those among the inner circle followed a similar code: discussing it in public was not an option.

"It's not for me to negotiate something as critically important as keeping the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo in a forum like this," said Governor Hochul back in December 2021.

Of course, Hochul was not alone, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Pegula Sports and Entertainment Executive Vice President Ron Raccuia had both made similar comments on several occasions.

But ever since the release of the Memorandum of Understanding laying out the construction deal reached by all parties and the passage of the New York State budget, which included $600 million for the project, there's been a steady trickle of new information and confirmation.

The Buffalo News was first to report in August 2021 that the Pegulas initially asked for a new stadium to be 100% publically funded. That report was largely dismissed at the time but on Wednesday Governor Hochul confirmed it during an interview and caller Q&A on WNYC, New York public radio.

"I was not going to give away the shop. The first question was can we finance it 100% with public dollars," Hochul said responding to a woman from Brooklyn who called the program and questioned the investment of taxpayer money into the Bills' project.

"Their current stadium was financed with 100% public dollars and I said no, no way, we are not doing that," Hochul added.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz shared almost identical info in a series of tweets Monday. In one tweet he wrote that Bills ownership originally asked for no team contribution. Poloncarz was responding to a disagreement between a Buffalo News reporter and co-founder of the 'Bills in Buffalo' group Ryan Miller.

In the same Twitter thread, Poloncarz revealed that his original preference was to build a new stadium in Buffalo and not Orchard Park, as was ultimately decided for a variety of reasons including the need for fairly large infrastructure improvements downtown, cost, time, and local opposition.

Poloncarz stated in one tweet that a 2021 report by the architecture and design firm DiDonato Associates led to increased pressure to reach a deal sooner rather than later. The report found that Highmark Stadium's upper deck was declining.

Earlier in her WNYC appearance Governor Hochul also addressed how rumors about threats to leave Western New York played a role in the Bills Stadium negotiations.

"I was aware that they were being reached out to by other cities that had lost teams before, that part is true," said Hochul. "Their stadium was starting to crumble something had to happen and if there wasn't a decision done soon they definitely had other options.”

She added that Buffalo's comparatively small size for an NFL market made it "quite extraordinary" that Buffalo has a team at all.

"There is a lot more money to be had in those larger cities like San Diego and others who would love to have a team," Hochul said.

With negotiations almost completely behind the Bills, Erie County and the state the deadline to wrap up all related documents is September 1.

The new debate regarding the stadium has turned to the Community Benefits Agreement; details for which have not been shared and are still being worked out.