The “Austin Bills,” a new NFL team, could soon become a reality. It all depends on the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the Buffalo Bills’ ownership and Erie County. That said, an ownership source told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that Austin, Texas is a possible destination — or threat — as one of the “other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it.”
According to The Buffalo News, this news comes after the Bills’ initial proposal of $1.5 billion for a new Orchard Park stadium that would be entirely taxpayer-funded was made. Pegula Sports and Entertainment also owns the Buffalo Sabres arena, and part of this proposal would fund renovations to that facility. According to the proposal, the new Orchard Park stadium would be county-owned and built right next to the existing stadium. This would eliminate the need for temporary relocation. Local officials would not be interested in such a payment system, however.
The Buffalo News reports that the team hasn’t made any threats to leave Buffalo in the event it doesn’t receive its full funding, but that it has made it clear that there are other cities that would be open to an NFL franchise. Wickersham revealed that Austin is one of those potential destinations.
Teams have constructed stadiums in many different ways around the league. Some were built without public money, while others used up to 70% of the funds necessary to build a state-ofthe-art facility.
Negotiations between Bills ownership and government negotiators “have been fair”. The state also understands why the club wants to build a new stadium instead of renovating the existing one. In the event of a lease extension, the Bills’ lease ends in 2023. This is why it is important to have these negotiations arranged to start construction.
“Governor Cuomo wants the Bills to stay in Buffalo. This is evident by the state’s $130 million contribution to the new stadium. The administration is engaged with the Bills as we do due diligence to understand how the team’s proposal will affect the current leasing that expires in 2023.” Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for Andrew Cuomo, told The Buffalo News.
Since 1973, the Bills have lived at Highmark Stadium. It was predominately called Ralph Wilson Stadium. Option A would seem to be to stay in Buffalo for the long-term. But. However, Wickersham’s report serves as a reminder of the fact that there are many cities that would be willing to attract the NFL to their city. This could prove to have a significant negotiating advantage in these negotiations for a new Orchard Park stadium.