Updated: December 21, 2012 7:59 AM | By Michael Gormley, The Associated Press, thecanadianpress.com

NY official: State, NFL's Bills reach stadium deal



ALBANY, N.Y. - The Buffalo Bills have reached an agreement with Erie County and the state on a lease deal for the Ralph Wilson Stadium that will keep the NFL franchise in western New York, a state official familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

The official, who requested anonymity because the deal hasn't been announced yet, confirmed to The Associated Press that an agreement has been reached. The official said Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered the deal.

Cuomo, team officials and County Executive Mark Poloncarz were expected to officially announce the deal at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the stadium in Orchard Park.

The Bills' current lease expires July 31.

The agreement, first reported Friday by The Buffalo News, is expected to include millions of dollars in renovations to the nearly 40-year-old stadium.

The deal was reached after months of talks involving the Bills, county officials and the Cuomo administration. A major sticking point determining how to divide up the costs for renovations and upgrades the Bills are seeking for their home field. According to the News, the Bills will kick in $35 million and the state and county will share the remaining $95 million renovation costs.

The newspaper reports that the deal is for 10 years, with the Bills allowed to leave after the seventh year of the contract without a financial penalty.

This is regarded as a major step in keeping the Bills in western New York.

Concerns had been raised of the Bills being targeted for relocation. They're a small-market team based in the United States' 56th largest television market. Another issue is the status of team's Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson, who turned 94 in October and whose health is slipping.

Wilson spent about a week in hospital in late August due to an undisclosed illness.

Though committed to keeping the Bills in Buffalo during his lifetime, Wilson has not made any commitments regarding the team remaining in town following his death. Wilson has made clear that he intends to have his heirs sell the franchise, opening the possibility of the team being purchased by someone interested in relocating the team.

The deal was reached after significant progress was made in talks earlier this week.

Talks had reached a standstill in September, which led to the three sides discussing the possibility of having to reach a one-year extension in order to provide more time to negotiate a long-term lease.

After negotiations picked up, Cuomo and state officials had to divert their attention to preparing for and dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of the East Coast in October.

"We've made plenty of progress. It's a very complicated deal," Poloncarz said earlier this week.

The team was making preparations for what appeared to be a significant announcement on Friday morning. Reporters were not allowed in the team's media room at the Bills facility, and told to wait in the press box at the stadium, located across the parking lot.

Workers in the media room were setting up rows of chairs and TV monitors.

___

AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, N.Y., contributed to this report.

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