A study commissioned by the team’s ownership will consider the Buffalo Bills‘ stadium options, including the feasibility of New Era Field renovations and a potential new facility.
The Bills are owned by Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE), which has tabbed the Denver-based CAA ICON to study facility options for two of its major sports teams: the Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. CAA ICON will consider potential renovations of the Sabres’ current home–KeyBank Center–while exploring long-term plans for the Bills. New Era Field, located in suburban Orchard Park, originally opened in 1973 and has fallen behind NFL standards, while the team’s lease at the facility is set to expire in the summer of 2023.
The study, which is currently expected to take six-to-nine months to conclude, was announced on Tuesday. More from Buffalo News:
As far as potential sites for any new stadium, including the possibility of combining a Bills stadium with a new convention center, [Pegula Sports & Entertainment’s chief operating officer Bruce] Popko said nothing is off the table. But part of the study includes evaluating the public appetite for significant spending and funding.
“We don’t go into it with any preconceived notions,” Popko said. “I can tell you quite honestly, we were asked by them – by CAA ICON – to really have as open a mind as we can, and we’re going into this exercise like that.”
The study, which will be paid for entirely by Pegula Sports & Entertainment, will be a first step toward determining the long-term homes for Buffalo’s professional football and hockey teams. New Era Field is more than 40 years old, while KeyBank Center has been open for 23 years. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Popko told him Tuesday that the findings will not be publicly shared.
The study will examine the feasibility of further renovations at New Era Field and will also weigh the options for building a new football stadium, including potential stadium sites, design and financing options. It also will look at modernizing KeyBank Center to meet the demands of today’s fans, Popko said.
PSE, which has worked with CAA ICON previously, emphasized the study’s focus on the fan experience. “The number one priority for this study is the fan experience,” PSE President & CEO Kim Pegula said in a press statement. “CAA ICON has an extensive resume, having participated in dozens of first-class professional facilities, along with Harborcenter and Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. We have the utmost confidence that CAA ICON’s unparalleled experience will help ensure that our venues achieve the highest standards.”
Although New Era Field has had renovations in recent years, including some upgrades completed prior to this season, it is still considered out of date by modern NFL standards. It is the currently the sixth-oldest stadium in the NFL, but it will move up in the coming years. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum–the NFL’s oldest venue–will lose the Rams as a tenant when a new Inglewood stadium opens in 2020. Also set for a replacement is the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which is the NFL’s fourth-oldest facility and will lose the Raiders when they move to Las Vegas. The new Las Vegas stadium is set to open in 2020.
As a whole, this study could give PSE some ideas for a path forward for two facilities. KeyBank Center opened in 1996, but has fallen behind NHL standards due to its aging condition as new arenas open and many facilities that debuted around the same time period receive extensive renovations. The Sabres’ lease there expires in 2025.
Image courtesy Buffalo Bills.
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