ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — While the Buffalo Bills begin their season in Los Angeles, discussions are still ongoing on the legal agreement for their new home at the stadium complex in Orchard Park.
It's a work in progress, as they say, to follow up on the original MOU, or memorandum of understanding, that was announced by the Bills organization, the state, and Erie County technically as part of the state budget back in March.
State lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul placed the state's funding share at $600 million. Hochul said much of that will come from the Senecas' casino revenue sharing payback, and then Erie County asked to provide $250 million.
The Bills would cover any additional funding for the currently projected $1.4 billion cost of the stadium. That negotiating process originally had a Sept. 1 deadline, but that was extended for 45 days.
While all parties say they cannot share details, even with the use of public funding for such, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz spoke a bit about the ongoing process.
"People are like, 'Well, why did you do the extension?' Well, we did not finish the documents, but we're moving along," Poloncarz said. "And the goal is to get those done by the 45 days, and there's been good progress but we're not there yet, and we'll continue to negotiate until we get it done."
One reporter asked: Is there a major sticking point?
"I can't talk about it, but it's a very complicated, very complicated process," he said. "We're not talking about somebody building a house. We're talking about building a $1.4 billion stadium, and all that goes along with it ... so it takes time."
Poloncarz added: "It didn't surprise me that we were not going to meet the September 1 deadline. I went through the lease process in 2012, which spilled over to 2013. I remind everybody in 2012 we announced an extension of the lease agreement in December, and we didn't finalize and sign all the documents until May."
When asked about the previously announced funding formula, Poloncarz said: "The county is locked in, the state is locked in. The Bills are responsible for all cost overruns. Our number is set in stone."
The other unfinished business is the $100 million Community Benefits Agreement, which is supposed to spell out how this stadium deal will help other economically deprived sectors of the community.
For example, it would deal with adding more stadium jobs and opportunities for minority and women owned vendors with stadium contracts. And then there's increased mass transit access, which we have already seen in a pilot stage with the NFTA Metro buses.
Poloncarz will only say they are still talking about the CBA as well with non- disclosure agreements for the negotiators. Some of the county lawmakers involved were critical at first saying there really had not been meaningful discussions. Apparently, they later changed their tone.