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$300 million in state funding allotted for future Bills stadium

The Erie County Stadium Corporation voted Wednesday to further half the state's commitment toward the new stadium.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The final details are still in the works but the state entity in charge of managing the future home of the Buffalo Bills has signed off on the first $300 million in state aid for the construction of the new stadium.

At a meeting Wednesday, the Erie County Stadium Corporation voted to further that funding, authorized entering into a 30-year lease with the Bills, and appointed a new president to oversee the next phase of the project, which will include construction and the management of the venue when it's finished.

"The Bills are actually hoping to start early work in April, which is probably put up a fence, cap some utilities but the big digging starts in June," said Stephen Gawlik, senior counsel for Empire State Development, of which the Stadium Corporation is a subsidiary.

New York State has committed to funding $600 million of the $1.4 billion project, with the NFL and the Bills investing $550 million and Erie County $250 million. The new stadium will be owned by the state rather than the county, as is currently the case with Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.

Steven Ranalli, who was appointed president of ECSC Wednesday, is also the man behind Canalside's redevelopment and is the current president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

He said his involvement marks a transition in the stadium project.

"Stephen and the team have done a lot of work behind the scenes getting these agreements in place and moving this to a point where, you know, we're about ready to break ground ... the team now is really committed to getting the construction done and moving that process along and eventually we'll take ownership of the facility and operate it for the long haul," Ranalli said.

The ECSC board also reviewed public comments made at a Feb. 2 public hearing Wednesday. Chairman Bob Duffy stated that the comments had no impact on the General Project Plan.

While state funding has been cleared, the exact details of various stadium-related documents have yet to be released.

ESD representatives assured reporters Wednesday that those documents such as the lease agreement, non-relocation agreement, community benefits agreement, and others are close to being finalized.

The Erie County Legislature has yet to sign off on said documents and has pledged to take 30 days to review all details of the agreements.

"This is the biggest construction project not just in our generation but in history here in Western New York so we want to do our due diligence. We're going to have multiple committee hearings about the documents that come before us," Erie County Legislature chairwoman April Baskin said.

Baskin is also a member of the Stadium Corporation's board of directors who explained that when the documents are presented to the legislature they will also be made public.

"We're working as hard as we can to get it in front of the legislature because once the legislature approves and the documents are signed and the Bills will be off and running," Gawlik added.

The timeline, however, will be tight if the Bills want to break ground in June.

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