Could the “Austin Bills” soon be a thing in the NFL? That really depends on what happens with the ongoing negotiations between the ownership brass of the Buffalo Bills, the state of New York, and Erie County. That said, an ownership source told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that Austin, Texas is a possible destination — or threat — as one of the “other cities elsewhere that desire an NFL franchise and would pay handsomely for it.”
This news comes as Bills ownership put forward an initial $1.5 billion proposal for a new stadium in Orchard Park that is entirely taxpayer-funded, according to The Buffalo News. Part of that proposal would also help fund renovations for the Buffalo Sabres arena in downtown Buffalo, which is also owned by Pegula Sports and Entertainment. The proposal states that this new stadium in Orchard Park would be a county-owned facility and would be built directly next to the team’s existing stadium so there would be no need for a temporary relocation. However, the idea of such a payment system would reportedly be a non-starter for local officials.
The Buffalo News also reports that the team has not made any overt threats to leave Buffalo if it doesn’t get its full funding for the stadium, but has made it clear to government negotiators that there are cities elsewhere that would welcome an NFL franchise. As Wickersham has since revealed, Austin seems to be one of those possible destinations.
Elsewhere around the league, teams have built stadiums in a variety of ways. Some have been built with no public money while others have used as much as 70% to erect a state-of-the-art facility.
So far, these negotiations between government negotiators and Bills ownership “have been fair” and the state understands why the club is pushing for a new stadium rather than renovate the existing facility. The Bills’ lease expires in 2023, so there is an emphasis to get these talks hammered out to begin construction in the event that an extension isn’t reached.
“Governor Cuomo is committed to the Bills staying in Buffalo, as demonstrated by the state’s contribution to the recent $130 million investment in the current stadium. The administration is fully engaged with the Bills and other stakeholders as we conduct due diligence to understand the economics around the team’s proposal ahead of the current leasing expiring in 2023,” Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for Andrew Cuomo’s budget office, told The Buffalo News.
The Bills have resided at Highmark Stadium — predominately known as Ralph Wilson Stadium from 1998-2015 — dating back to 1973. It would appear that Option A is to remain in Buffalo for the long term. However. Wickersham’s report is a reminder that there are plenty of cities that would line up for miles to lure the NFL to town, which could prove to be a valuable negotiating chip as these talks progress for a new stadium at Orchard Park.