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Quarterbacking Success

The Buffalo Bills are a storied franchise with a deeply dedicated fan base. For countless game days since the team’s founding in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League, Bills faithful filled the seats at the old War Memorial Stadium in downtown Buffalo and, later, at what is known today as Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.
As the stadium in Orchard Park neared its fifth decade, it needed significant repairs. Initial negotiations focused on two options: renovate the stadium or build a new one. The Bills favored the latter option, believing that a brand-new stadium would allow the team to offer the complete modern game experience that football fans had come to expect.

The new state-of-the-art, 60,000-seat stadium the Bills proposed would take the team into its next era … and it would require significant funding and complex agreements among the Bills, New York State, Erie County and the National Football League.

It was going to be a long game, and the Bills needed a game plan. That’s why they called Loeb & Loeb.

The First Quarter

The Bills first had to work together with state and county officials to decide whether a new stadium should be built or the old stadium renovated. Loeb & Loeb led countless negotiations between public officials and the NFL. Gaining consensus across varied—and strong—interests required balancing political, economic and social considerations. Over more than two years and after helping secure the commitment of a newly elected state governor, herself a Western New York native, it was decided: The Bills would get their new stadium.

The Second Quarter

Next? Where to build. Some wanted to bring the team back to downtown Buffalo, but the Bills thought the land across from the current stadium in Orchard Park was the better fit. Getting all parties to agree required the Bills and Loeb & Loeb to show the state and county that a public-private partnership and the investment of public funds in a new stadium in Orchard Park would foster economic development in the area and enhance the image of the county and Western New York—and that it would do so without overtaxing or requiring significant and costly overhauls to the existing infrastructure of the city of Buffalo and Erie County. And that’s just what we did.

The Third Quarter

We had the “where.” Now we needed the “how.” That meant helping the Bills negotiate a public-private partnership to finance the new stadium and negotiating multiple agreements governing its development, construction and use. Critically, the agreements had to balance the respective interests of the team, public officials and the NFL. We knew we could do it.

The second-smallest NFL market by size, Buffalo is one of the biggest by heart. It punches well above its weight in the revenue it generates. The Loeb & Loeb team developed complex agreements leveraging this position that would enable the Bills to provide all the trappings of a modern football stadium while at the same time ensuring that ticket prices and other costs wouldn’t exceed what the local community had come to expect.

The new stadium would be owned by New York State and leased to the Bills for a period of 30 years, with all revenue generated from the stadium going directly to the Bills. The stadium lease was negotiated to provide funding for ongoing maintenance and capital improvements, a non-relocation agreement was included to ensure that the Bills would play in the new stadium for 30 years, and a community benefits agreement was included to provide that the Bills would continue to support local initiatives directed toward community support activities.

The Fourth Quarter

With drafts of the stadium transaction agreements in the hands of public officials and the clock ticking on the expiration of the Bills’ lease at the old stadium, the Loeb & Loeb team finalized numerous agreements that needed to be approved by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Erie County and the public stadium authority before the public funding and construction could begin. After review of the transaction agreements and sign-off from county legislature, the Bills finally—after close to a decade of discussions over their future home—had a deal.

In the end, the stadium received $600 million from New York State, $250 million from Erie County and at least $550 million from private sources. It was the largest-ever public commitment of funds to a new stadium at the time. It was also more than just a new building. The Bills agreed to put at least $3 million per year—over $100 million over the life of their new stadium lease—toward programs and offerings for the Buffalo community, so that the team can continue to give back to the very people who give them so much.

Loeb & Loeb was honored to help the Bills secure a victory for Bills fans and the community with this remarkable stadium project.