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Bills seeking short-term lease agreement

June 8, 1997

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ The Buffalo Bills are not interested in signing a long-term agreement to remain at Rich Stadium unless it includes financial guarantees or an escape clause, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Buffalo News, quoting unidentified sources, said Bills owner Ralph Wilson is becoming increasingly pessimistic about the local economy, but negotiations about a new lease are still progressing.

``My sense is that the longest lease that would be possible is 10 years,″ one source was quoted as saying.

``And to get Wilson to agree with that, there would have to be some conditions or guarantees.″

Talks between the Bills and Erie County have not been held for about a month but are expected to resume in the next two weeks. The main hurdle is the length of the contract. The Bills’ 25-year lease for Rich Stadium expires next July.

Erie County was looking for an agreement that would keep the Bills in Buffalo for at least 15 years. The Bills want to make sure they are assured a certain amount of revenue or an option to break from the agreement.

The two sides appeared to nearing a deal until Jeffrey Littman, the team treasurer and Wilson’s money man in negotiations, raised the ante.

Erie County and state negotiators seek a face-to-face meeting with Wilson that might also include Gov. George Pataki and county executive Dennis Gorski.

Gorski spokesman Scott Brown said the county remains optimistic about reaching an agreement because Wilson has long voted against teams moving to other cities. Most recently, he voted against the Browns move from Cleveland to Baltimore and has been a proponent of stability in the NFL.

A new lease package would be in the $50 million to $60 million range.

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