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The Buffalo News (New York)

ALBANY - A group composed of Toronto investors and rocker Jon Bon Jovi looking to purchase the Buffalo Bills insist that it is not looking at potential new stadium sites in Southern Ontario and that its plans are to keep the team in Western New York.

"It's the Buffalo Bills, and they will do everything they can to make that work there," said Andrew Bergmann, a Toronto engineer who is a stadium consultant for the group.

Group members besides Bon Jovi include Toronto Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chief Larry Tanenbaum and members of the family who own media and telecommunications giant Rogers Communications.

Bergmann said the group will sign the paperwork required by the Bills trust - due Tuesday - that any potential bidders must submit in order to stay in the purchase process, which will next include more in-depth financial go-rounds with the investment bank and lawyers involved in the team's sale.

Bergmann, who has known and worked with Tanenbaum for more than 30 years, said the group has only examined various design ideas for a new stadium, and has not yet been performing any site-selection work. He said he and others involved with the group's efforts will meet with two "prominent" Buffalo-area developers Wednesday to discuss sites they have in mind for a new stadium for the National Football League team. He declined to elaborate.

For months, sources have said the Toronto group was looking at a number of Southern Ontario sites, including one near Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.

Bergmann - responding to media reports Thursday that the group was considering a new stadium in Toronto - said that talk of any sites is premature but insisted that the group is looking to either build a new stadium in the Buffalo area or possibly renovate the current 41-year-old stadium and keep the team in Orchard Park.

"We have been looking at engineering-type studies and preliminary designs for a stadium. We've been doing that for a while. We have no clue where we might build it. ... We've done no feasibility on any sites," Bergmann said in an interview with The Buffalo News.

"I don't think there would be anything else they'd be looking at right now," Bergmann said when asked whether the group will keep the team in Western New York. Bergmann is co-founder of Wessex Capital Partners in Toronto, an architecture, design and engineering firm.

He said the stadium configurations that the group has looked at range from an open, 15-acre stadium to a 25-acre version if a retractable roof is incorporated. The overall size would depend, he said, on whether a suburban or urban site is selected and the amount of parking required.

If a new stadium is planned, the consultant said, the Bon Jovi group would likely end up with a facility seating between 60,000 and 72,000 and costing at least $750 million.

QMI Agency, a Canadian news outlet, has reported that the group is looking to remain in the Buffalo area. It has also reported that Bon Jovi would be the controlling owner of the group if it emerges as the winning bidder for the team. The NFL permits groups to own a team, but one individual must own at least 30 percent of the syndicate's shares. Tanenbaum's interests include the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Basketball Association's Toronto Raptors.

A person with knowledge of the process said there have been more potential bidders for the Bills than what many insiders had expected.

In recent weeks, no new names have been added to the roster of those known to be interested, including Manhattan developer Donald J. Trump, former Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano, and current Sabres owner Terry Pegula and his wife Kim.

Bergmann said the Bon Jovi and Toronto investors have been focused on the franchise bidding process alone.

"We're not even close to any feasibility study," he said of the stadium speculation. "I think people are hoping we are further along on a stadium site than what is reported in the media, but it's not the case."

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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