Less than two weeks after the Bills reached an agreement to build a new $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park, New York, the state legislature has approved budgeting that will contribute $600 million to the project, as The Buffalo News reported Saturday. Some lawmakers pushed back on the funding, arguing New York should not be prioritizing a lucrative new complex for team owners Terry and Kim Pegula over other local projects, but a clear majority vote Saturday morning sealed the state's contributions.
The Bills currently play in Orchard Park's Highmark Stadium, their home since 1973 and the fourth-oldest complex in the NFL. Under their 30-year lease with New York State and Erie County for construction of the new stadium, the Bills will get a record $850 million from public taxpayers, as well as $250 million from Erie County, in addition to the $600 million state funds. Gov. Kathy Hochul had made funding a new Bills stadium one of her "signature proposals," per The News, and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes defended the investment as a win for the community.
"We are thrilled to have been able to get this over the finish line," Kennedy said. "It's not only important that we keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo – the only New York State NFL team. It's important we keep them here in the state."
Approximately 2,000 construction jobs will be created as part of the stadium building, per the legislature, while some lawmakers believe the new complex will greatly benefit local businesses. Others, however, were not so easily sold on the big deal.
"Our public schools got less than the Buffalo Bills stadium," Democratic Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou said, per The News. "The climate bill, the climate project that we really wanted, also got less than the Buffalo Bills project. Is that what we stand for? This is a moment where we have to look at where our priorities are."
In the end, the Assembly approved the $600 million state funding by a 95-49 vote, with the Senate passing it 39-23. More than $400 million of that money will come from gambling revenue, according to The News, while roughly $180 million will come from the capital projects portion of the New York state budget. The NFL in March separately approved a $200 million loan to the Pegulas for construction of the stadium, which will be just the third official facility of the team in franchise history.
Groundbreaking is set for 2023, with the Bills scheduled to begin playing in the new stadium in 2026.