The Buffalo Bills have hired Legends to lead project management, sales and partnerships for the new NFL stadium to be constructed in Orchard Park, N.Y. Legends started working with the Bills a year ago to help the team explore stadium feasibility and has been handling e-commerce for the team for about the same period of time.
“Why are we working with Legends? They’re the best,” said Ron Raccuia, Bills executive vice president, in a phone call. “We interviewed everyone, left no stone unturned. At the end of the day we felt best about their technical expertise, their strategic vision and a personality that fit best with us.”
The Bills are planning to replace their 48-year old stadium with a new facility nearby that will be jointly financed by the team, Erie County and New York state. Taxpayers will kick in at least $850 million toward the stadium, probably two-thirds of the total cost.
Legends has been involved with the planning of numerous arenas since its founding in 2008, including recent NFL facilities in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “We’re proud of the fact we’re the go-to for these very important projects for one of the most important leagues the world,” said Legends CEO Shervin Mirhashemi, in a phone interview. “There’s a reason for that: There’s expertise and an acumen that we bring to the table about how these projects work, what their life cycles are and how you monetize them.”
The Bills and Legends have already held focus groups with fans and conducted surveys to help in planning, according to a release scheduled to go out later this morning. In addition to arena design, Legends will assist the team in selling seat licenses, naming rights and “founding partner” arrangements. “It’s been a data-driven approach, using our feasibility business and our data analytics business to help them formulate what is consumer demand—what are they looking for?” added Mirhashemi.
Since it’s early in the design process, there aren’t a lot of decisions yet settled about the stadium, but the club hopes to incorporate some features that work well in other NFL venues as well as elsewhere, said Raccuia, citing London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and LAFC’s MLS stadium as examples.
“We have a unique opportunity to build a football stadium for the Buffalo Bills and for our community, without having to worry about everything else,” Raccuia said. “We’re not hosting Super Bowl in our stadium, we’re not looking to be the driver for economic revitalization—we’re looking for the best football experience we can create. The best thing we can do for western New York is to win football games and create an unbelievable atmosphere in our community.”
The Bills, purchased by Kim and Terry Pegula in 2014, play in one of the smallest markets in the NFL, and Raccuia hopes the new bowl can provide an example for other small market NFL franchises. The team won’t pursue mixed use real estate development, as other teams have done (in part because New York will own the land and facility), but the team will support any related efforts, he added.
Legends was founded as a joint venture of the New York Yankees and Jones Concessions LP, an affiliate of the Dallas Cowboys. The business has evolved to incorporate strategic planning, marketing, commerce, branding and technology solutions for sports teams and non-sports businesses, such as Freedom Tower’s One World Observatory. Last year, Sixth Street Management bought control of Legends at a valuation of $1.35 billion, with the founding teams retaining sizable minority stakes. More recently Legends has been increasing its business outside the U.S., recently being named part of a redevelopment team for Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
“We’ve really been true to who we are,” Mirhashemi said, “humbly being an expert to help these projects achieving what they’re fully capable of achieving, and doing it in a white-label way, putting the client brand at the forefront.”