Weekly Feature

2018-11-29 / Local News

Pegula Sports to begin study of sporting venues

Pegula Sports and Entertainment has hired CAA ICON to assist its efforts in determining the next steps for the Buffalo Bills stadium needs and for potential renovations of Key- Bank Center, the home of the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits.

CAA ICON will conduct a privately funded study to help identify the best options for ownership, fans and the community. The study will include direct feedback from Bills and Sabres fans.

“The number one priority for this study is the fan experience,” said Kim Pegula, PSE president and chief executive officer. “CAA ICON has an extensive resume, having participated in dozens of first-class professional facilities, along with HarborCenter and Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. We have the utmost confidence that CAA ICON’s unparalleled experience will help ensure that our venues achieve the highest standards.”

“As both New Era Field and Key- Bank Center have aged, they have fallen behind modern standards,” said Bruce Popko, chief operating officer of PSE. “Terry and Kim Pegula have invested more than $2 billion of their own money in our market, including $350 million in privately financed venue upgrades and expansions. With both leases nearing expiration, we look forward to developing a plan and working with our public sector partners to solidify the futures of the Bills and Sabres.”

During the coming months, CAA ICON will guide PSE through a stadium feasibility analysis to identify the needed improvements to all aspects of the fan and team experience at either a new football stadium or a renovated New Era Field. The study will equally focus on modernizing the more than 23-year-old KeyBank Center.

As CAA ICON’s study explores the possibility of a new football stadium, it will include potential stadium sites, design and financial planning for all options. In addition to CAA ICON’s internal venue-development and strategic advisory experts, CAA ICON has partnered with national and local architectural and engineering consultants for the evaluations. Populous, a global architectural firm known for its design of arena and stadium projects, will lead architecture and planning services.

“We are grateful to Terry and Kim Pegula and the entire PSE organization for engaging us on a project that is so personally important to them and their teams’ loyal supporters,” said Tim Romani, founder and chief executive officer of CAA ICON, who has overseen the company’s oversight of more than 50 venue developments in the last 25 years. “CAA ICON will collaborate with PSE, the Bills and Sabres fanbase, and the Buffalo community to understand and unlock the perfect spectator experience and optimize these venues for what is unique to Buffalo and its rich game-day traditions.”

County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a statement on the study following the announcement from PSE.

“Today’s announcement by Pegula Sports and Entertainment regarding its retention of CAA ICON to review the conditions of New Era Field and KeyBank Center, interview season ticket holders on their desires, and offer suggestions for future improvements was expected by the county,” Poloncarz said. “Every year, senior leadership of the county and the Bills/Sabres meet multiple times to discuss the condition of the football stadium and hockey arena, both owned by the county. At one such meeting earlier this year attended by Kim Pegula and myself, representatives of PSE indicated they would be retaining a consultant to perform such analysis.”

Poloncarz added that the addition of a consultant to conduct the study goes along with past practices.

“This is exactly what was done by the Bills organization under former owner Ralph Wilson Jr. prior to the last round of lease negotiations in 2012-2013,” he said. “Just as the county performs its own independent analysis of the stadium and arena’s conditions, so do the owners of the teams that play at each facility.”

The county executive said bringing a consultant on board does not mean a final determination on the stadiums has been made.

“Nothing announced today should indicate any particular action, such as building a new stadium or hockey arena, will in fact occur,” he said. “Any final decision will ultimately be made by the Pegulas through PSE, the county and New York State after future negotiations. I look forward to continuing to serve in the role as chief negotiator for the county during these discussions, and in the meantime the county will continue to fulfill its commitments to improve the football stadium pursuant to the 2013 lease agreement.”

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