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County legislators approve stadium lease deal

Erie County legislators have unanimously approved the memorandum of understanding on a new ten-year lease with the Buffalo Bills for their stadium in Orchard Park.Approval is a major step in the long road toward a new lease for Ralph Wilson Stadium. Once a lease is signed by everyone involved, that opens the way for $130 million of renovations, repairs, and expansions on the facility, much of which will be done after next season.

As with the current lease signed 15 years ago, the current deal was negotiated by Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe. Tobe says many steps remain.

"We can't conclude the documents until the NFL owners approve them," Tobe said.

"The NFL owners will approve them at the owners' meeting in mid-March. The state will have to have certain actions in Albany to allow them to sign off on the documents. And we will have to come back to the Erie County Legislature for them to also approve those very same documents."

Tobe says the plan is to have the documents ready in mid-February so they can go to various owner committees before going to the full league. He says the deal will have to go before two separate committees before a vote.

Legislator Edward Rath says there is a psychological and financial value to having the team here.

"The Buffalo Bills make western New York a major league community. Both the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres have us on the map. This is extremely important when it comes to the identity of our community," Rath said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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