BUFFALO, N.Y. — The family of Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is proposing to build a stadium to help secure the Buffalo Bills’ long-term future in the region, two people involved in discussions told The Associated Press.
Executives of Jacobs’ Buffalo-based Delaware North hospitality and management company are to meet with at least one prospective ownership group and members of a firm hired by New York state to evaluate potential new stadium sites in Erie and Niagara counties, the people said.
They spoke this week on the condition of anonymity because Delaware North has not publicly revealed its plans.
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Delaware North specializes in sports-related hospitality service, and has a long track record in land development. The company controls the TD Garden in Boston, home to the NHL’s Bruins and NBA’s Celtics, and owns and operates resorts, restaurants, casinos and horse racing tracks across the country.
It also has food-service concession contracts at numerous sports facilities, including the Bills’ home, Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jacobs’ son, Jeremy Jr., told the AP last month his family was part of discussions to keep the Bills in Buffalo, including possible involvement in a stadium development plan.
"We do have an interest in what’s happening with the stadium in town," said Jacobs, a Delaware North principal. "Clearly, there’s a lot we can offer when the time is right. But I think at this stage it’s more of a political process than anything else, and so it’s really not our role to play at this stage."
Delaware North spokeswoman Wendy Watkins this week deferred questions regarding stadium plans to those previous comments by Jacobs. Watkins said nothing has changed since that interview in early May.
One person familiar with the Jacobs’ plans said Delaware North officials will meet with state officials involved in the stadium search process. Another person said there have been initial discussions regarding the Jacobs’ teaming with prospective ownership groups, including one led by former NHL Sabres owner Tom Golisano.
The timing of the discussions comes as ownership groups prepare to start bidding for the Bills, who are on the market after owner and founder Ralph Wilson died in March.
Jacobs had previously not ruled out the possibility of buying the Bills. But he also noted there are obstacles that could prevent the family from making an ownership bid. The biggest involves Delaware North’s casino and racetrack holdings, which the Jacobs would have to sell off because league rules bar owners from having links to gambling-related interests.
The Jacobs family would not face those restrictions if it limited its scope to building a stadium.
The Bills essentially are tied to playing at their current home through the 2019 season. There remain concerns of the franchise eventually relocating under a new owner.
The proposal to replace the 41-year-old stadium has been raised by local and state officials and favored by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who considers it an important step in keeping the franchise in western New York.
The state commissioned AECOM, a California architectural and design firm, to identify three to four sites across the region that could serve as the team’s new home. The firm is working with sports business attorney Irwin Raij, who is heading Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to keep the Bills in the region.
AECOM is expected to present its final report as early as next month.
Aside from Golisano, New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump continues to express interest in buying the Bills. The Buffalo News this week reported Pabst Brewing Co. owner C. Dean Metropoulos also has interest in a bid.
Another potential candidate could be current Sabres owner Terry Pegula. Three people familiar with his plans said the Pennsylvania billionaire remains interested, but hasn’t yet prepared a bid. Those people spoke on the condition of anonymity because Pegula hasn’t discussed his plans since telling The Buffalo News in April he "would not want to see the team moved out of Buffalo."
Pegula’s net worth was last estimated by Forbes to be $3.3 billion.