The State of New York has released details of the 2019 stadium study CAA Icon conducted on behalf of Pegula Sports and Entertainment conducted regarding the future home of the Buffalo Bills.
Just in time for Christmas.
The four articles from the report were released by Governor Kathy Hochul with permission from the Bills and posted as a cache of documents on the Empire State Development website.
Though the report does not yet reveal what the venue itself might look like, it does detail what might be included in the stadium experience, that Orchard Park is projected to be the site of the new stadium and that they hope to open it in 2026 if an agreement can be reached with New York State and Erie County. Also included is the state-released 156-page economic impact report CAA ICON conducted on behalf of PSE.
One of the documents, the New Stadium PDP Appendix features points that highlight what PSE has identified as priorities for a new stadium. These include things like “Generate more revenue”, “WiFi and DAS”, “No roof. Outdoor football” and “Natural grass”, as well as “Sports betting should be considered”.
“I’m not saying I’m necessarily morally for betting, but we need to have that opportunity to provide (the) amenity for our fans,” Kim Pegula said to The News in 2019 regarding betting and esports as a “future use and revenue opportunity.”
Other points highlighted are that the report prioritizes replicating the “intimacy” of Highmark Stadium, that “Seating bowl should dominate,” and should feature a “better game-day experience for families, provide distinct experiences from beginning to end.” Also that the stadium should be multipurpose year-round and “support more uses than football,” allowing people “to do more around the stadium” to generate revenues on a weekly basis.
Internally, it mentions “higher quality” concessions, possibly featuring a natural grass field that is heated, with larger playing surface dimensions “to accommodate soccer/other events”, as well as premium merchandise retail areas and “potential for (a) tunnel club”.
The report’s mention of soccer could easily allow readers to envision the stadium doubling to house an “Upstate United” type MLS club to compete with neighboring Toronto and the further NYC teams.
The artist renderings, which created some buzz online, are not indicative of the designs being considered per Pegula Sports and Entertainment EVP Ron Raccuia.
“We haven’t designed it yet,” Raccuia said. “Does (the partial roof) cover 360 degrees of the stadium? Or does it cover just the sidelines? Or is it horseshoe-shaped? Some of that’s going to be predicated on wind and sun analysis. Some of that is going to be predicated on whether the stadium is completely enclosed or not. … We’re not there yet. We’ve got to figure all that out.”
Suffice to say, however, that a new stadium will have a modern look to it.
What is included are some insights as to where the stadium could be located.
The study analyzed three locations while evaluating the possibility of renovating Highmark Stadium. Those three locations were Orchard Park, South Park Avenue near downtown, and the University at Buffalo’s North Campus.
The study used a scoring system across eight different categories, in which three potential sites were graded for place-making ability, transportation, parking, program accommodation, costs, schedule, intangibles, and revenue generation. The locations scored South Park first (74), Orchard Park second (66), and Suny Buffalo third (34).
While the South Park site is graded the best, the Orchard Park site is being prioritized for cost, schedule, roadways, and parking. Per the report, it can be built in 68 months with a cost of $1.5-billion as opposed to the projected 92-month build and $2-billion cost at the South Park location which doesn’t include the expenses of improvements to roadways and infrastructure.
Governor Hochul has thrown her support behind the decision, saying “If their desire is Orchard Park, it’s Orchard Park. We’ve never said otherwise.”
The report documents were not previously made public due to the relationship with consultants CAA ICON and Populous.
But after some public requests as well as some pressure from the Erie County Legislature, not to mention a lawsuit from the Investigative Post, we now have a clearer view of PGE and the Bills long-term vision. The state’s previous report with consultant AECOM recommended a new stadium versus renovating Highmark Stadium but did not include a site location.
“There’s nothing in it that we haven’t been saying since May,” added Raccuia. “The idea that there’s something (additional) in our reports, this was our way of saying, ‘No there’s not.’ ”
Still, it is an early Christmas gift no less for Buffalo and its fans to catch a glimpse of the exciting features a new stadium and home for the Bills might feature.
A PDF of the Buffalo Project Development Plan Presentation can be downloaded here.