The construction of the new Buffalo Bills stadium has officially begun.
The team’s owners and a gaggle of state and local dignitaries gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, raising shovelfuls of dirt at the Orchard Park site, which is across the street from Highmark Stadium, built in 1973.
Terry Pegula, who owns the Bills with his wife Kim, called the deal a “fan partnership.”
“We all know the Bills are the only team that actually, physically plays in the state of New York, and we're very proud of that,” he said.
When is the new Buffalo Bills stadium set to be completed?
The $1.5 billion stadium project is scheduled to be completed in 2026. It will seat 60,000 people, and bring $1.6 billion in economic impact to the Buffalo area community in the next three decades, as well as 10,000 union construction jobs, Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, said Monday.
The stadium will be open air, like the current stadium, but a canopy will cover 65% of the seats, protecting them from inclement weather.
“The next generation is here and now, and it's ready to roll with Josh Allen aiming to bring Buffalo a championship in our new, state-of-the-art stadium on this very spot,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Monday.
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Who’s paying for the Bills new stadium?
There was some controversy around that question last year, when Hochul struck a deal with the Buffalo Bills to build the stadium and guarantee the team stays in New York for another 30 years.
The deal saw New York forking over $600 million in public funding, while Erie County pitched in $250 million. $850 million is the largest public commitment for the construction of an NFL facility, according to the Associated Press.
The Bills agreed to pay $690 million toward the project.
To soften the sticker shock to taxpayers, Hochul announced she’d use a state windfall to help finance the project: the bulk of a $546 million payment New York obtained from the Seneca Nation, related to a disputed 2002 compact requiring the Nation, which operates casinos in Western New York, to share revenue from those casinos with the state.
The stadium deal required approval in the state budget, and turned out to be one of the most hotly debated issues in the entire budget process last year. Critics accused Hochul of diverting cash that should have been spent on boosting the health and well-being of Buffalonians and New Yorkers.
Additionally, to help finance the Pegulas’ portion of the stadium project, the Bills will charge for “personal seat licenses,” or a lump sum a patron will pay to have the right to buy season tickets in the new stadium.
Personal seat licenses, or PSLs, are a typical part of stadium builds, and, while the exact pricing for the Bills PSLs is not yet known, according to The Buffalo News, they could range from $500 to $16,500 for premium seating.
The sale of Bills stadium PSLs are expected to raise between $100 million and $200 million, the News reported.
Despite the distaste surrounding the project's financial backing, Hochul has been a stalwart supporter, doubling down on the Bills’ impact in the region into the future.
"As a native Buffalonian and a life-long Bills fan, I know how much this team means to this city and region as a whole," she said. "As we break ground on a beautiful new stadium, we're celebrating a new era for this region and for tens of thousands of New Yorkers who stand to benefit.”
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: New Buffalo Bills stadium construction started. Who's paying for it?