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Progress made in Bills lease/renovation talks

Associated Press Modified: June 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm •  Published: June 15, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Progress is being made in negotiations to extend the Buffalo Bills lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the $200 million price tag for renovations that comes with it, leaving Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz hopeful an agreement in principal could be reached by the end of next month.

"I feel there's agreement on some basic principles, and as a result I feel that we're headed in the right direction," Poloncarz said by phone on Friday. "We'll be meeting again in the future very soon, and it is my goal as well as the Bills' organization to have the general terms hammered out by the start of training camp."

Poloncarz stressed it's premature to label the deal as anywhere near completion.

The first step would be reaching what Poloncarz called a "memorandum of understanding," which would encompass the framework of the agreement by the time the Bills open training camp on July 26. The date does not represent a hard and fast deadline, but is instead an artificial timetable the two sides have set as an objective to complete talks.

The next step would be just as comprehensive and involve lawyers preparing an actual lease to be signed before the Bills' current deal expires in July 2013.

The lease talks, combined with the Bills' bid to extensively renovate the 40-year-old stadium, are regarded as a key phase in securing the small-market franchise's long-term future in Buffalo.

Poloncarz confirmed the renovation price tag at being between $200 million and $220 million, which is more than double what former Erie County Executive Chris Collins projected it would be in October before talks began.

Last year, the Bills spent about $500,000 in hiring an architectural firm to conduct a thorough study of what improvements are necessary to both upgrade the stadium's existing structure and add fan-friendly, revenue-generating enhancements.

The renovations would take about three years to complete, with the work done during the NFL offseason, Poloncarz said.

Up for discussion is how much of the team's wish-list of needs will be included and how to divide the costs between the county, state as well as the Bills.

Poloncarz said that the Bills and the NFL have been asked to contribute an undisclosed share. He noted that other teams, including the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, have committed their own money on renovations or building new stadiums. And he added the NFL has system in place to help its franchises pay for capital improvements.

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