ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Town of Orchard Park has largely had a back seat to negotiations regarding the financial details of a new Buffalo Bills stadium. That deal between the state, the county, the team, and the NFL was announced Monday and signals to town leaders that other development can be more seriously considered.
"I just think it would be a perfect opportunity if you want to call it a facelift for the area," said Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce President Donald Lorentz.
Right now, the area around Highmark Stadium is a sea of parking lots, great for tailgating and there are businesses scattered up and down Abbott Road and Southwestern Boulevard, but Lorentz and Orchard Park Town Supervisor Gene Majchrzak thinks more can be done.
"I would like to make sure the Town of Orchard Park has a seat at the table in developing the perimeter of this project," said Majchrzak.
The current home of the Bills will eventually be demolished and the new stadium moved across Abbott Road. It will be butted up to the ECC South Campus. Majchrzak and Lorentz have several ideas on how to use that 'old' space.
"Possibly put in some type of village over there with hotels, restaurants, shops things like that, maybe a couple of pedestrian bridges that could cross Abbott Road," Majchrzak said.
"Maybe we can freshen up some of the restaurants in the area and augment them by having some other things so people wouldn't just be coming during the games," added Lorentz.
These development ideas would be separate from the stadium and would likely require re-zoning by the town. Majchrzak said if the right project is presented and there's an eager developer lined up, the town would be open to adapting to make better use of the space.
Channel 2's Ron Plants asked Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on March 23 about the potential for this type of development around the new stadium. Poloncarz said there isn't a lot of space but enough to work with.
"There are a few pieces in that area and most of it is owned by Erie County," Poloncarz said.
He added, "there is definitely interest from private developers in the area on a potential new stadium."
New York Governor Kathy Hochul added that discussions are ongoing.
"Those are conversations that we're having with the team and the county right now. I mean there's quite a bit of land there so there's a possibility for different types of development," Hochul said.
Any development would take several years to complete and the stadium isn't expected to be finished until 2025 if not 2026 said Poloncarz Monday. So while time is on Orchard Park's side Lorentz said he is glad to have local developers already expressing interest in building out the area.