Ralph Wilson Stadium - Courtesy: US Presswire
By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday there has been "good progress" during lease negotiations with the Buffalo Bills, but cautioned that an agreement has still not been reached.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, met with team and county officials on Friday, while Cuomo discussed the Bills' soon-to-expire lease by phone with a team official over the weekend. The National Football League team's 15-year lease for county-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium expires in July, though a one-year extension has been agreed to in principle.
"We have made good progress in the conversations, but this is a complicated transaction," Cuomo told reporters Monday. "It's a lot of money, and it is very important for western New York."
Bills officials are believed to be seeking state money to help finance about $200 million in upgrades to the Orchard Park, Erie County, stadium, which first opened in 1973. State officials, meanwhile, are looking for monetary protections should the team decide to relocate prior to the end of the lease agreement.
In a statement issued over the weekend, Bills CEO Russ Brandon said the team's goal is to strike a "mutually agreed upon deal that is fair for all parties and we remain optimistic that we will achieve our goal."
"Our commitment to this goal has never wavered, and we were pleased to hear on Friday directly from Lt. Governor Duffy of the State's and County's commitment as well," Brandon said.
While Cuomo showed signs of optimism, he warned that a final deal has still been out of reach. Last month, Cuomo's office announced that it had hired Irwin Raji, a well-respected sports attorney who represented a team of investors who purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this year, to assist with negotiations.
"We are making good progress and the conversations have been productive, but we do not have an agreement," he said.
In his statement, Brandon said the team won't comment on the lease talks as they continue.
"As we move forward through the negotiations, we will continue to refrain from public comment in order to allow the process to move forward in an expeditious and businesslike manner," he said.
Jon Campbell/Gannett Albany Bureau