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Bills’ lease renewed for 10 years

The Empire State Development board of directors has approved the general project plan for renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park and extension of the current lease with the Buffalo Bills.

The Erie County Stadium Corporation, a subsidiary of ESD, met Wednesday and recommended its approval to the board. The approvals signal another step toward finalizing the terms of the deal into a formal 10-year lease. In December, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed setting forth the basic terms of an agreement to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

Adoption of the General Project Plan is the first step in the legal process for approving the new lease. The deal is expected to close as planned in late March. The state’s share of the renovation work is included in Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 Executive Budget, which needs approval from the state Legislature.

The MOU signed by the governor, the team and Erie County includes a commitment from the Bills to stay in Buffalo for at least the next seven years and $130 million in upgrades to the stadium.