ALBANY, NY — The public’s share of the cost of building and operating a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills will exceed $1.1 billion when long-term maintenance costs are factored in, according to documents released Wednesday. .
Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a deal Monday that would see state and county governments pay $850 million for the estimated $1.4 billion cost of building the stadium in suburban Buffalo.
However, those figures only covered construction costs. Under the team’s lease, the state would also have to pay a fund to keep the new building in Orchard Park in top shape, according to a 14-page memorandum released by the Hochul government.
That would include $100 million paid out over 15 years for any necessary maintenance and repairs, plus at least an additional $180 million for capital improvements paid out over 30 years. Actual annual state payments to the endowment fund may be higher, adjusted upwards based on the consumer price index.
Together, the state and county payments would make up one of the largest government grants ever given to a new NFL stadium.
Hochul, a Democrat, Bills fan and native of Buffalo, announced the deal as a boon to western New York. It would tie the team to Buffalo for at least 30 years.
Others have attacked it as a wasteful giveaway of taxpayer money to the team’s owners, billionaires Terry and Kim Pegula, whose fortunes have been linked to fracking natural gas.
“Like cities across the state, Buffalo is dealing with a housing crisis, food insecurity, an increase in violence and too much more. Imagine throwing nearly a billion dollars into those problems,” tweeted Jumaane Williams, the public prosecutor for New York City, who faced Hochul in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Another primary opponent of Hochul, US Representative Tom Suozzi, criticized both the amount of the grant and the speed with which the state legislature is asked to approve the process. The deadline for adopting a new state budget is April 1.
“You can’t sneak in a billion-dollar tax subsidy in four days,” Suozzi told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. “It just isn’t right.”
More than $418 million of the state’s $600 million share will come from a delayed casino-related payment from the Seneca Nation, the governor said late Tuesday. Erie County will pay $250 million for the project.
The payment from the Seneca Nation will cover a portion of the five-year revenues of three of the tribe’s western New York casinos. The tribe stopped making payments in 2017, as the obligation to share income with the state and locals had expired.
The Seneca Nation Council this week ended its longstanding payment dispute with the state by authorizing the transfer of $565 million held in escrow.
“These funds were generated in western New York, and I am directing the portion of the state that is over $418 million into the new Buffalo Bills stadium,” Hochul said in a press release. “This will keep the bills in New York state and support 10,000 construction jobs.”
Under the deal proposed by Hochul, the state of New York and Erie County would be allowed to hold some events at the stadium when the Bills are not using it, although they must use the Bills’ authorized seller to sell tickets.
The Bills will have to pay an annual rent of $900,000 that will go into the capital improvement fund.