Bills’ owners commit to new home
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Terry and Kim Pegula are committed to building a stadium for the Buffalo Bills and are working on ending the team’s series of annual home games in Toronto.
Those were among the topics the franchise’s new owners touched upon during a wide-ranging 20 minute interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday night.
”Well, there’s going to be a new stadium somewhere, that’s all I know,” Terry Pegula said. ”The league was pretty emphatic that Buffalo, we’re a small market, needs to be as competitive as we can.”
The one answer the Pegulas couldn’t provide yet is a location, timeline or how the costs of a new stadium will be split.
Kim Pegula said she and her husband will join an already established New Stadium Working Group that is studying potential locations, designs and costs.
”We know it’s out there. We understand it. We realize it. But we want to make sure because you only get to build a stadium once,” Kim said. ”We want to make sure that when the time comes, that we have done our homework.”
The Pegulas stressed they’re in no rush after the Bills’ current home, Ralph Wilson Stadium, underwent $140 million in renovations this offseason.
As for the Bills-In-Toronto series, the Pegulas are ready to end it.
”We’re working on that right now,” Kim said. ”We want all the home games to be played in Buffalo, so we’re working through that. I think it’s close, but nothing’s been finalized. But that is our intent.”
The series was placed on hold in March, when the Bills and Toronto-based Rogers Communications announced an agreement to postpone holding a game north of the border this season. The two sides said they wanted time to ”evaluate opportunities and build on the foundation to enhance future games.”
The postponement came after Bills management and players expressed concerns about poor fan support at Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto, and whether it was worth giving up a home game in a bid to expand the franchise’s exposure in Canada’s largest city and financial capital.
The Bills have a 1-5 record since the series was launched in 2008. Under the existing agreement, which was renewed in 2013, the Bills were scheduled to play four more regular-season games in Toronto.
Toronto is about a two-hour drive from Buffalo and part of the Bills’ market.
The Pegulas, who also own the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, are still in the midst of their transition in the month since buying the Bills from late owner Ralph Wilson’s estate for an NFL-record $1.4 billion.
They’re impressed with the job President Russ Brandon has done in overseeing the team during the sale process.
Terry said it’s premature to consider making any changes to the team. And he has not yet determined whether he’ll hire an outside adviser to evaluate the franchise.
”I don’t think we’re there yet or if we’re even going to get there,” he said. ”They’re in the middle of the season, and if there’s one thing the Buffalo Bills don’t need right now is a distraction. God bless them, I hope they win every game.”
At 5-3, the Bills have put themselves in a position to make a second-half push to compete for a playoff spot and end a 14-year postseason drought – the NFL’s longest active streak.
Buffalo hosts Kansas City (5-3) on Sunday.
The Pegulas are still riding a momentous wave of buzz and relief generated in Buffalo. Their purchase secured the Bills’ long-term future in western New York amid fears that a new owner would buy and potentially relocate the franchise.
There were no such concerns with the Pegulas, who have established firm roots in Buffalo while maintaining their base in Florida. Aside from owning the Sabres, they privately funded the construction of the newly opened HarborCenter, a $172 million downtown hockey and entertainment complex.
The Pegulas are valued at having a net worth of $4.6 billion.
Terry, who grew up in Pennsylvania and became a Sabres fan in the 1970s, made his fortune selling natural gas holdings. Kim grew up in nearby Rochester, and met Terry when he was living in Olean, about a 90-minute drive from Buffalo.
The two will work as co-owners with no clearly defined roles. Terry is more focused on the team, which is similar to his involvement with the Sabres. Kim will more focused on stadium amenities and improving fan experiences.
The partnership has another advantage, Terry said in noting that at 63 he is 15 years older than Kim.
”I’m older than her, and after what the city of Buffalo just went through with Ralph passing away, I think successor ownership is a nice thing to have,” Terry said, noting he intends to have Kim eventually take over as owner.
That’s a switch from Wilson, who had no plans of passing the team on to family members.
The Pegulas’ next step is to continue improving the region’s economy.
”I do think that as a responsibility of having the sports teams here in western New York is how are you going to fill up those seats? How are you going to get a stadium built?” Kim said. ”All those things take a good healthy economy, and people with cash in their pockets to be able to spend on these types of things.”
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