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The Buffalo News (New York)
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Buffalo Bills are spending $18 million in private funds to improve club seats and ribbon-board digital signage at New Era Field.
Team owner Terry Pegula told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that the upgrades, most of which involve the stadium's three club areas, would be done in time for the 2018 season.
As part of the renovations, the Bills are expected to sell the naming rights to club areas that are named after Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, Bills broadcasting legend Van Miller and former Bills punter Paul Maguire.
It marks the first renovation of the club seats since they were installed in 1999. Those areas of the stadium were not included in the $130 million renovation as part of the 2013 stadium lease.
"We're trying to make our experience for our fans better," Pegula said while here for the NFL's annual meeting. "That's our thought process on any of these projects. It's all centered around keeping our fans happy and giving them the best experience they can get."
The Bills announced renovation plans in December, but had not revealed the cost. The Bills said the project includes new furnishings and upgrades to the concession stands. Bars at each end of the club areas will replace the center bar.
"This will be a complete makeover of our current club experience," Bills president Russ Brandon said. "Our goal is to drastically improve the fan activations within all of our club-seat programming areas."
The NFL has a policy that, if a stadium renovation project receives owner approval, the 34 percent portion of shared revenue directly generated from the project is waived to offset some of the private money spent on stadium renovations.
On Tuesday, owners voted, 32-0, to approve the Bills' $18 million project.
With the Bills able to opt out of their stadium lease with Erie County in less than two years, Pegula was asked if it was something he would consider doing because it would give the team more flexibility independent of any political entities.
"We talk about that heavily internally, but not publicly," the owner said. A team spokesman later clarified that Pegula's response was in general about long-term stadium planning and did not mean the Bills were opting out of the lease.
The Bills announced in early February that ticket prices would rise an average of 3 percent. The Bills kept costs flat in 2017 after three consecutive years of increases. The average price of $68.18 for a season ticket ranks in the bottom five of the NFL, according to a team spokesman.
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