http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8769320/buffalo-bills-reach-agreement-ralph-wilson-stadium-leaseORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills aren't going anywhere any time soon, and the team's CEO, Russ Brandon, guaranteed it Friday.
"Guaranteed," Brandon said at a hastily called news conference, announcing the Bills had agreed to sign a new 10-year lease with the state and county to continue playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"This is a monumental day for us," he added. "The Buffalo Bills are right here in western New York, where we're going to be for many decades to come."
It's a $271 million deal, of which $130 million will be committed to upgrading an aging stadium that opened in 1973. And the agreement includes a commitment to put aside funds and establish an advisory group to explore the potential of building a new stadium for the franchise.
Just as important, the agreement includes a provision that essentially locks the Bills in for the next seven seasons. The franchise would have to pay $400 million if it decides to leave before 2020. The team then has the option of buying out the remaining three years of the lease for $28 million.
"This is an investment that the state is making. It's an investment in the Bills. It's an investment in western New York. And I'm proud to make that investment," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, speaking via a satellite television hookup from New York City because stormy weather prevented him from flying upstate.
A memorandum of understanding with the terms of the agreement was signed Friday, with the actual lease still to be finalized. It's subject to review by the NFL and during budgeting by the state and Erie County.
The deal was reached before the Bills' existing 15-year lease expires at the end of July. And the price tag for renovations is significantly lower than the $200 million Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz projected it would be when talks first began last spring.
In a breakdown of costs provided by officials, state and county taxpayers are on the hook for $226.8 million for the duration of the lease. That includes a series of annual payments for annual capital and game-day expenses.
Of that total, the state and county are committed to making a one-time payment of $94.5 million next year for stadium upgrades, which will include getting new scoreboards, widening concourses and building a new plaza. The Bills' share for those upgrades will be $35.455 million.
"Those that would criticize the state and Erie County for investing taxpayer money to keep the Bills here would be the same ones criticizing if the Bills left," Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said. "If we were to lose them, that would be a shot into the morale of this community and this state that could not be understated."