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Bills agree to new 10-year stadium lease with county, $130M in upgrades

Chris Caya/WBFO News

An early Christmas present for Buffalo Bills fans arrived in Orchard Park today. The team has signed a new 10-year lease with Erie County for Ralph Wilson Stadium that will keep the franchise in western New York for at least the near future. Dozens of state and county officials joined Bills CEO Russ Brandon in announcing the deal Friday morning. It includes $130 million for stadium renovations, with the Bills paying about $35 million of the cost, the state covering $54 million and county covering the other $41 million.

The Bills' lease agreement was set to expire on July 31, 2013.

The deal also includes a $400 million penalty if the Bills leave Buffalo in the first seven years of the 10-year agreement.

A storm in Albany forced Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue his remarks by video conference call. Cuomo said it's a fair agreement to all parties.

"The state pays the majority of the funds in the agreement, and I am proud of that. This is an investment that the state is making. It's an investment in the Bills. It's an investment in western New York," Cuomo said.

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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says stadium improvements will include new concession stands, updated restrooms, a new scoreboard, and new security features.

The governor also said the agreement includes the possibility of a new stadium for the Bills down the road, if feasible.  A committee is being formed to study the idea.

Lt. Governor Robert Duffy says it was clear from day one of the negotiations that the Bills never wanted to leave the area. 

"The Bills are a big part of the fabric of western New York," Duffy said. "If they were to [leave], that would be a shot into the morale of this community and this state that cannot be understated."

"This is a monumental day for us. The Buffalo Bills are right here in western New York, where we're going to be for many decades to come," said Bills CEO Russ Brandon.