NY Extends Contract With Law Firm To Retain Buffalo Bills In NY

05.01.14 | Bill Price

New York’s economic-development arm has extended a contract with a law firm for legal advice on retaining the Buffalo Bills in New York.

Foley and Lardner, LLP, quietly had its contract extended April 16 at a meeting of the state’s Empire State Development Corp., records show.

The contract is for three years and is not to exceed $350,000. It calls for the firm to assist Empire State Development with “long-term planning for the retention of the Buffalo Bills in New York, including consideration of substantial renovation of the Ralph Wilson Jr. Stadium.”

Cuomo’s office also confirmed a Buffalo News report that the state is preparing to hire a firm to develop a presentation to potential team bidders showing new stadium locations in western New York.

After owner Ralph Wilson’s death March 25, the future of the Bills in Buffalo gained immediacy. The team could be sold as soon as this fall, but the team’s lease will expire in 2023 and only guarantees the Bills remain in Buffalo through the 2019 season.

The Bills owner would be forced to pay $400 million if the team is relocated before 2023, except for after the seventh year, when the team would have a one-time-only option to buy out the remainder of the lease for $28 million in 2019.

“Since day one, the Cuomo administration has been aggressive when it comes to keeping the Bills in western New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s director of state operations, Howard Glaser, said in a statement.

The firm’s main contact on the contract is Irwin Raij, a former aide to Cuomo in the 1990s when Cuomo headed the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency. Raij now is a leader of the firm’s sport industry department and has advised teams on potential sales, including the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The state initially had a deal with the firm in 2012 to advise it on the Bills’ future.

“The governor’s number one goal is to keep the Buffalo Bills in western New York and Buffalo,” Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said following an event in Rochester on Wednesday. “And we are hoping to do everything we can to make sure that the state ends up doing what it can to help.”