Wednesday, April 30, 2014

State continues to take steps toward retention of Bills


Following the death of Ralph Wilson, Jr., Governor Andrew Cuomo has stepped up his game in the quest to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

The governor has taken major steps toward eventual negotiations with prospective buyers of the franchise, first hiring a law firm (through New York's Economic Development Agency) to represent the state in any potential talks down the road.

The deal, reported by The Buffalo News Wednesday, pays the firm Foley & Lardner $350,000 for their services, services they hope in turn can coax the Bills' next owner from moving the team.

"We want to send a message to potential ownership groups that we’re very serious about looking at a stadium as part of the package to keep the Bills in Western New York," N.Y. Operations Director Howard Glaser told The News.

Partner to the law firm is Irwin Raij, who the state hired back when Buffalo renegotiated their lease in 2012. Raij has a credible resume when it comes to stadium negotiations, experience that includes help with the Miami Dolphins during their stadium renovation talks.  

Even more recently, the governor's office has made moves to get a consultant involved with the process, with the main goal of putting together some presentation material for interested buyers of the Bills. The state hopes to shore up that plan in the next few weeks and have some material to present by summer.

There's been skepticism since the renegotiation of the team's contract with the state that Cuomo may be posturing due to his public comments regarding a new stadium. The governor's actions thus far, however, seem sincere. 

Just last month he appointed Sen. Chuck Schumer, a longtime proponent of the team's continued presence in Western New York, to the New Stadium Working Group. Schumer's strong voice in Washington, coupled with the services of the seasoned Raij, seem like solid steps toward a united front dedicated to the team staying put.

Another tidbit worth noting: If there are any fans wary of a new owner breaking the latest lease agreement, it'll be a costly endeavor. The News pointed out that the team can leave the state in 2020 for a $28 million charge. Leaving earlier than that, however, would yield a penalty of $400 million.

Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily