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Erie County issues RFP for legal counsel in future New Era Field lease talks

WBFO file photo

The Buffalo Bills are committed to playing their home games at New Era Field through 2023. But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, wanting to get a head start on preparations for future lease talks, is already putting out a call to law firms who may be interested in providing counsel when negotiations begin.

The county has issued a Request for Proposals, similar to one sent out in 2012.

"We have a little bit more time now than we did then, so we wanted to get this out of the way early, in which we will be retaining outside counsel with experience in professional football stadium deals, NFL deals, potentially other major sports deals," Poloncarz said. "So we get counsel that can provide us the best and most recent information as we go forth with the discussions with the Bills and New York State."

His hope is to have a firm identified and signed by mid-summer and for negotiations to begin as early as this fall. Last month, the Bills informed the Poloncarz Administration that it would not exercise its early opt-out clause, which would have ended the current lease at the Orchard Park stadium this year. That commits the pro football franchise to the stadium through the end of the lease in 2023.

Some are calling for a new downtown stadium, while others say the Bills would be better served further renovating and staying in their current location. Poloncarz says all options should remain on the table, and even the Bills' owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, are not ruling anything out.

"The Bills have looked at multiple options, including renovation of the current facility," he said. "They have done a report that they're keeping in house. I've not seen the results of that. I don't expect to see the results of it. But what I am expecting is the opportunity for us to have our own counsel to do our own internal work before we heavily get into negotiations, so that we're prepared. That's why this RFP is going out on the street."

The Buffalo Bills have played at New Era Field since 1973, when it first opened as Rich Stadium and was later renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium before taking on its current identity. An estimated $5 million in repairs are scheduled for the facility this year.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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