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NFL coming to PSU? Buffalo Bills eye possibility of playing at Beaver Stadium

This would certainly be exciting for a lot of folks in central Pennsylvania, even if it is probably still a long shot at this stage. The Buffalo Bills are in need of a new stadium, and while they’re waiting for one to be built down the road, there’s a possibility the NFL franchise could use Penn State’s Beaver Stadium as its temporary home in a few years.

The details emerged in a report Friday from Rochester TV station News 8 WROC. That outlet reported the Bills are planning to build a new stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., which wouldn’t be completed until at least 2025. That time frame could cause some issues because of the Bills’ current lease.

PODCAST: Would Penn State want the Buffalo Bills to play a season at Beaver Stadium? We discuss pros and cons with Ben Jones of StateCollege.com on “Sports Central with Cory Giger” on WRTA in Altoona.

From the WROC story:

The plan for a new stadium does create a problem. The lease at Highmark Stadium expires in 2023. That leaves at least one season, if not more, where the Bills would not contractually have a facility for home games.

There will almost certainly be negotiations with Erie County and New York to extend the lease for the intervening years. However, the team is prepared to consider other options for home games. News 8 has been told that Toronto and Penn State are both possibilities for the Bills should they need a temporary home. It’s still a path the Bills would undoubtedly prefer to avoid.

State College is less than 200 miles from Orchard Park, so it would make sense for the Bills to consider Beaver Stadium as a possibility for a temporary home.

There’s also the obvious connection with Terry Pegula. He’s the Bills owner, a Penn State alum and he donated more than $100 million to build PSU’s hockey arena and start up the school’s hockey program.

Still, the last sentence from the WROC report above is telling, with regards to playing in a temporary home: “It’s still a path the Bills would undoubtedly prefer to avoid.”

No NFL team wants to relocate and play all of its home games for a season at a college stadium. So, one can probably expect the Bills would try to do everything they can to get a lease extension at their current stadium.

Still, if challenges arise in those discussions, or if there are other logistical problems that force the Bills’ hand, they could be looking for a temporary home for the 2024 and/or 2025 NFL seasons.

The question then would become: Would Penn State want to host an NFL team for a season at Beaver Stadium, which is in need of its own major renovations in the coming years?

That might sound like a no-brainer because of the potential revenue it could bring PSU, State College and Centre County. But having a major college program call the stadium home on Saturdays and then an NFL team playing there on Sundays or Mondays could create a whole bunch of logistical issues.

Tens of thousands of people converge upon the small town for PSU home games, and that means a host of hotel reservations and other travel factors in and around State College. Would it be possible for the Nittany Lions to play at home on a Saturday, and then the Bills play there the next day? How would that impact hotel availability?

Or, would the NFL make it to where the Bills would only play at Beaver Stadium on weekends that Penn State is not at home? That would make more sense, if it can be pulled off from a scheduling standpoint.

The Bills also reportedly may consider Toronto as a temporary home. There’s only 115 miles separating Toronto and Orchard Park, but there would be the issue of going through customs traveling into and out of another country. Who knows if that minor inconvenience would be considered a factor?

This whole thing will be something to keep an eye on over the next year or so. Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour typically speaks with the media at Big Ten media days, which take place next month, and she’ll surely be asked about the possibility of hosting the Bills.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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