County Executive Chris Collins Confident About Extending Buffalo Bills' Lease With Erie County

1:27 PM, Feb 16, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY-- Erie County Executive Chris Collins says he's confident that the county and state can reach a new lease agreement with the Buffalo Bills, although he adds a new lease could include one additional game per season in Toronto.

As part of the current lease, the Bills will spend $2.8 million on upkeep at the stadium, which this year will include new turf.

The team's lease with the county expires in the summer of 2013.

"I'm firmly convinced they will remain the 'Buffalo Bills,'" said Collins.

Collins believes the Bills and the NFL have a good thing going in Western New York, with a stadium that's paid off and in good shape, and fans that continually support the team despite its bumbles, stumbles and fumbles.

Scott Brown: "Have you begun talks with the Bills?"

County Executive Collins: "I've had preliminary discussions, absolutely."

Collins says he and the Bills have agreed that serious negotiations won't begin until the league and the players' union come to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, something which could still be months away.

Once lease talks do begin, the Bills treasurer, Jeff Littmann is expected to negotiate on behalf of the team, as he did during the last set of negotiations in the late 1990's, if Collins wins re-election, he and his top aides will represent the county, and Governor Cuomo will likely be represented by the New York's Empire State Development Corporation.

Scott Brown: "In the new talks, do you believe the Bills will want to play more games in Toronto every year?"

County Executive Collins: "I believe there will be 18 regular season games not 16. I think as we have 18 regular season games it would not be difficult to say if we have nine regular season games at home, we could have two of those up in Toronto."

Speaking of Toronto, the fear among Bills fans is that with Ralph Wilson's eventual passing, Rogers Communications, which has paid for the "Bills In Toronto" package of games, would simply buy the team and move it up the QEW.

But Shawn O'Rourke, the Director of Canisius College's Sports Administration program, who is a Canadian himself, doesn't believe that will happen.

Shawn O'Rourke: "The Bills have made good money in Toronto, but I just don't think there's an interest there from the city (to support a team)."

Scott Brown: "Plus you'd have to build a stadium right?"

Shawn O'Rourke: "Yeah, cause the stadium you have now only seats 50,000, it's old and outdated."

It's estimated that a new stadium in Toronto could cost $1 billion.

O'Rourke also says working in Western New York's favor is that there are now at least two men who have the ability to buy the team and keep it here in Terry Pegula and Tom Golisano.

As far as Los Angeles, which is without a team, a stadium still needs to be built there, and right now the thought is that if any team moves there, it would be the San Diego Chargers.

Scott Brown: "I want you to look into your crystal ball, what are the chances the Bills are still here in five or ten years?"

Shawn O'Rourke: "Ninety nine point nine percent. The options to move the team just aren't there anymore."

In a statement to 2 On Your Side, Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said the team is "focused on reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players. As matters resolve themselves, we look forward to addressing the Ralph Wilson Stadium lease."



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