ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the appointment of a sports expert to advise the state in its efforts to secure the Buffalo Bills' future in western New York.
Sen. Charles Schumer, meantime, said he has asked the National Football League for changes in a stadium renovation loan program that he said would advance the same goal.
The moves come as negotiations are under way between the Bills and Erie County and New York state to extend the Bills' lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium in suburban Buffalo. The current deal expires in July 2013.
The talks include how to divide the costs of proposed renovations to the 40-year-old facility, estimated at upwards of $200 million to $220 million. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has said the Bills and the NFL have been asked to contribute an undisclosed share.
At a news conference at the stadium Wednesday, Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has spoken with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about his idea that a "due on sale" clause in the NFL's G-4 loan program be waived for teams that have had the same owner for at least 20 years. The clause requires owners to fully repay the loans if the team is sold.
Although the Bills' 93-year-old owner Ralph Wilson has maintained that he has no intention of selling the team during his lifetime, he has indicated his heirs would sell the team, meaning any G-4 loan the Bills might receive for stadium upgrades would likely have to be repaid before the end of 18- to 20-year term of the loan.
"It could end up offering very little benefit to the Bills," Schumer said.
The G-4 program provides matching dollars from a league loan pool for investments teams make in their stadiums.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, also in western New York Wednesday to deliver a lecture, said he had discussed Schumer's idea with the senator but stopped short of endorsing it outright.
"We spoke briefly about some ideas that he had," Goodell said, "and I said that we'll continue to work with him and see how they work.
"I think everybody wants the Bills to be here in western New York and Buffalo. They want to do it in a successful way, and their lease is up so it's important to get this done and to have a long-term lease that will address the short-term stadium issues and the long-term stadium issues." Continued...