The owners of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres have hired a consulting firm to help them study possible next steps for the venues where the professional football and hockey teams play. In the case of the Bills, the upcoming feasibility analysis includes exploration of an entirely new stadium.
Hired by Pegula Sports and Entertainment to take on this project is CAA ICON, a division of entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency, which provides services including management advice for public and private entertainment and sports owners.
Bruce Popko, the chief operating officer of PSE, suggested the first feedback from the study may come anywhere in the next six to nine months.
"There's a lot of people we're going to have to talk to," he said. "A lot of key stakeholders, sponsors, advertisers, fans. There are literally thousands of variables that are going to come into play."
PSE and CAA ICON will conduct a feasibility analysis for the Buffalo Bills that seeks to identify improvements necessary to enhance both fan and player satisfaction, at either its current home venue New Era Field or in an entirely new facility.
This past summer, PSE committed $18 million to build a new weight training facility for Bills players at its ADPRO Sports Training Center, located adjacent to the Orchard Park-based stadium. Completion of that project is expected by next April. That project follows another $18 million investment earlier in the year to upgrade club seating sections and digital signage.
The Bills' current lease is set to expire in 2023 and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has previously suggested it would cost at least $1 billion to build a new facility.
In a written statement, Poloncarz says the county anticipated the announcement.
"This is exactly what was done by the Bills organization under former owner Ralph Wilson. Jr. prior to the last round of lease negotiations in 2012-2013," said Poloncarz in his prepared statement. "Just as the county performs its own independent analysis of the stadium and arena’s conditions, so do the owners of the teams that play at each facility.
Poloncarz, in his statement, adds that any final decision will come from PSE, Erie County and New York State as part of future negotiations.
"I look forward to continuing to serve in the role as chief negotiator for the county during these discussions, and in the meantime the county will continue to fulfill its commitments to improve the football stadium pursuant to the 2013 lease agreement," he wrote.
The PSE/CAA ICON study will also explore how to improve KeyBank Center, the Buffalo Sabres' home since 1996. The arena has undergone renovations deep within the building including a rebuilt dressing room, lockers and lounge for the players, media dining area and scoreboard but the seating and main lobby areas are virtually unchanged.
The Sabres' lease at KeyBank Center expires in 2025.
Additionally, PSE has retained global firm Populous to assist with architectural and planning services for the project. Populous, which has previously assisted PSE with renovations including the Bills' locker room, has an extensive portfolio which includes Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York, Target Field in Minneapolis, Emirates Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in London and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.