(Orchard Park) Moments before breaking the ground for the construction of the new Buffalo Bills stadium, owner Terre Pegula rolled his eyes and delivered a message to his predecessor and founder of the team, Ralph Wilson.

“Ralph, we’re moving across the street,” he said, bringing laughter from the many guests at the ceremony, including the late Wilson’s wife, Mary.

Pegula, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul broke ground on the field where the Bills are expected to play starting in the 2026 season. The project will cost US$1.54 billion, of which US$850 million will come from public funds.

The new stadium of more than 60,000 seats will be built on land that served as parking for the old stadium.

Breaking ground comes just over a month after the Bills reached an agreement with the county government, and nearly 14 months after an agreement was reached to put public funds into the budget of State.

The new stadium will replace Highmark Stadium, which opened in 1973.

The Bills were founded in 1960. They first played in the American Football League and played their first 13 seasons at War Memorial Stadium in downtown Buffalo.

Hochul, who grew up locally in Hamburg, emphasized the benefits, both financial and psychological to one of the smaller markets in the NFL, of keeping the team in Buffalo. She said the annual economic impact of the Bills’ presence in the Buffalo community was estimated at $385 million.

The agreement has raised eyebrows more than one, while public funds will be used to support the Pegula family, whose value is estimated at 6.7 billion. Pegula also owns the Sabers in the NHL.

There has also been talk of bringing the Bills back to downtown Buffalo to revitalize it, rather than keeping them in suburban Orchard Park.