BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ralph Wilson fulfilled his vow in keeping the Bills in Buffalo during his lifetime.
And they won’t be leaving any time soon following the 95-year-old Pro Football Hall of Fame owner’s death.
In what is being referred to as Wilson’s parting gift to his adopted community, the Bills are essentially locked in to playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the next six years. That’s because of a non-relocation provision included in the team’s lease agreement that would require the Bills to pay a $400 million penalty if they leave before the 2019 season.
“Anyone expecting to see the Los Angeles Bills is sorely mistaken,” SportsCorp President Marc Ganis told The Associated Press. “They can’t move even if they wanted to. It would go against the ironclad agreement done with Ralph’s blessing.”
Ganis, a close observer of the NFL, heads a Chicago-based consulting firm and is very familiar with the 10-year lease the Bills negotiated with state and county governments in December 2012.
“With that lease, Ralph gave away hundreds of millions of dollars as, in essence, a parting gift to Buffalo,” Ganis said.
As for what happens beyond 2019 is uncertain and largely dependent on the next owner. In 2020, the Bills have a one-time opportunity to opt out of the lease for $28.4 million.
“It buys us seven years, which is a substantial amount of time to make sure the next ownership team that comes in sees the benefit of keeping that team in Buffalo,” Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said in Elmira on Wednesday. “We don’t want to lose them.”
The Bills’ long-term future is in question after the team’s founder and sole owner died at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., on Tuesday. Survived by wife Mary and two daughters, Wilson expressed no interest of leaving the team to his family.
As a result, the original American Football League franchise is expected to be placed into a trust overseen by the executors of Wilson’s estate before being put up for sale. That opens the potential of the team being sold and relocated.
Los Angeles could be a landing spot. So would Toronto, where the Bills played annual regular-season games since 2008 before postponing their series last month.
“Well, I haven’t focused on that,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when asked about the franchise’s future at league meetings in Orlando, Fla. “We know the terms of that lease. And we also know we have to find a long-term solution to keep the Bills there, and that’s what we’ll continue to work to do.
A list of ownership candidates has emerged to purchase a franchise valued at around $870 million.
Surgery out for former QB Kelly
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Doctors treating Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said Wednesday he will not immediately undergo surgery for a recurrence of cancer.
Instead, the longtime Buffalo Bills star will likely first be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, according to a statement from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“Jim Kelly’s condition remains very treatable and potentially curable,” Dr. Peter Costantino said in the statement. “Our immediate focus is on controlling his pain and beginning the process of eradicating the cancer.”
Kelly underwent surgery in Buffalo last June to remove a squamous cell carcinoma from his upper jaw. He had been expected to undergo additional surgery this week or next week after the cancer was found to have returned, his brother, Dan Kelly, said Tuesday.
Costantino said surgery remains a potential part of the treatment strategy for the cancer that he said is present in Kelly’s maxillary sinus and adjacent tissues.
“His cancer returned in a location that requires specialized expertise in the treatment of skull-based tumors,” the hospital statement said.
Kelly’s wife, Jill, in an online posting said the plan had changed because of “the complexity and aggressive nature of this cancer and after more scans and tests.”
“The cancer is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate,” Jill Kelly wrote.
Kelly spent 11 seasons with the Bills and led them to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s, only to lose them all. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Well wishes have poured in by the thousands on Twitter under the hashtag “prayersforjk,” including from numerous NFL franchises and players.