Downtown Bills stadium could displace 3,000

Report says new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in the Old First Ward would require more land than previously believed and could prove disruptive to the neighborhood.

Building a football stadium on the edge of downtown could displace up to 3,000 residents, as well as schools, churches and other neighborhood “institutions,” according to a report published by The Athletic. 

A downtown facility would impact more residents in and around the Old First Ward than previously reported because the stadium would require more land to comply with a “mandatory Department of Homeland security perimeter,” event staging and game day requirements.

In short, a stadium located along South Park Avenue near Louisiana and Hamburg streets would require a much larger footprint than previously believed. The site would need to be extended into the Old First Ward and Commodore Perry Towers, highrise apartments that house senior citizens.

The story, written by Tim Graham, included a previously undisclosed map whose authenticity was confirmed by Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

“There is theory and then there is reality,” PSE spokesman Jim Wilkinson told the Athletic, “and the reality is that the actual footprint for a stadium there would be larger and much more disruptive to the neighborhood than people realize.” 

Double your money with a donation today

Private consultants hired by Pegula Sports to review stadium options concluded that a South Park stadium site would cost about $2.5 billion. A state study conducted by the engineering firm AECOM estimated the cost at $2.1 billion. 

In its study, AECOM suggested moving forward with a downtown stadium would require an extensive, and potentially lengthy, environmental review process and would be complicated by the need to acquire private properties through condemnation.  

Team officials have expressed a preference for building a new facility in Orchard Park across the street from the Bills current home, Highmark Stadium. The price tag: $1.4 billion. 

There is growing support for building the stadium inside the city in the belief it could provide more economic benefit than a suburban location. Proposed locations include both the South Park site and the Central Terminal.

Ron Raccuia, PSE executive vice president, previously described the Orchard Park stadium plan as the best option. Published reports have suggested Erie County and the state could be on the hook for upwards of $1 billion of the total project cost. Officials with Pegula Sports and Erie County dispute the number, but won’t provide another one. 

Other NFL stadiums built in the past decade have involved subsidies ranging from $114 million to $750 million. A stadium in Los Angeles was built entirely with private funds. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz have expressed hope that a deal for a new stadium could be in place by the end of the year.