After months of negotiations between state and county government officials and the Buffalo Bills, The Buffalo News reports that the parties have agreed on a 10 year lease that will keep the team in Western New York.
According to the News report, the deal calls for $130 million to be spent on renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Notably, the Bills will spend $35 million – previous stadium upgrade deals didn’t require the Bills to spend any of their own money. Meanwhile, taxpayers will fund the remaining $95 million. Given the $95 million in public expense, taxpayers are essentially paying $9.5 million per year to keep the Bills in WNY for the next decade.
The new lease is a 10 year deal. And what should give Bills fans the most comfort, perhaps, is a hefty $400 million relocation fee which any owner would have to pay if they wanted to move the team out of WNY. The relocation fee would not apply if the team left after the seventh year of the lease (though it’s unclear if the penalty would be in place if the Bills were to move in years 8 or 9).
Forbes estimates the value of the entire Bills franchise at $805 million. A relocation fee that is equal to half the value of the franchise is huge and serves as an overwhelming deterrent to moving the team within the first seven years of the lease. In the last lease, the highest relocation fee the Bills would have faced was $20 million. In 1995, the Rams paid a $29 million relocation fee to move from Anaheim to St. Louis.
The fact that the Bills are locked in to WNY for at least 7 years will certainly calm the fears of many Bills fans. During that time, it’s quite possible Los Angeles will get another team.
Governor Cuomo will be in Buffalo for a 11am press conference to provide more details about the new lease.