Consultancy CAA ICON to study venue options for Buffalo Bills and Sabres

29 November 2018

Pegula Sports Entertainment (PSE) – the owner of the Bills and Sabres – has hired consulting firm CAA ICON to review and recommend the way forward for the suburbs-located New Era Field – be it renovation or a new downtown stadium. The study will also address potential renovations for KeyBank Center, the home of the Buffalo Sabres.

The privately funded feasability study arrives with the Bills having five years left on their lease with the state and county, and with the Sabres having eight years remaining on their deal. A previous study completed by the state in 2014 projected that a new stadium would cost over $1 billion, while renovating New Era Field would cost about $540 million. The new study, conducted by CAA ICON, will start from scratch, though it will use the 2014 study as a reference point.

New Era Field was erected 45 years ago, while KeyBank Center was built 23 years ago.

Speaking to the Associated Press, PSE Chief Operating Officer Bruce Popko said there would be no preconceived notions favoring renovations versus a new facility for the Bills’ stadium. He also related that it was too early to say how much taxpayers would have to front for the eventual plans.

“As both New Era Field and KeyBank Center have aged, they have fallen behind modern standards,” commented Popko. “Terry and Kim Pegula have invested more than $2 billion of their own money in our market, including $350 million in privately-financed venue upgrades and expansions. With both leases nearing expiration, we look forward to developing a plan and working with our public sector partners to solidify the futures of the Bills and Sabres.”Consultancy CAA ICON to study venue options for Buffalo Bills and SabresOver the coming months, CAA ICON will consult with ownership, fans, and the Buffalo community to complete the feasibility study. CAA ICON was formed out of CAA Sports’ acquisition of ICON Venue Group in 2016. CAA Sports is a part of leading talent and sports agency Creative Artists Agency.

CAA ICON provides management consulting to sports and entertainment owners, as well as professional franchises and leagues. The specialist firm delivers client support in the areas of strategic advisory (valuations, transaction due diligence, negotiation advisory), feasibility and planning (project development plans, financial feasibility, venue/financial assessments), and project management (managing the venue development process).

In order to complete the study, CAA ICON has partnered with national and local architecture and engineering consultancies, including Populous – which will lead architecture and planning services.

“CAA ICON will collaborate with PSE, the Bills and Sabres fanbase, and the Buffalo community to understand and unlock the perfect spectator experience and optimize these venues for what is unique to Buffalo and its rich gameday traditions,” commented Tim Romani, CAA ICON Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Romani has overseen more than 50 venue developments during the last 25 years.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna win a Bowl

Billionaire Terry Pegula, an oil man by trade, purchased the Buffalo Sabres in 2011 and the Buffalo Bills in 2014. The two teams, unfortunately, have been mired in a sort of sports futility for nearly 50 years. The Cubs winning the World Series, however, shows that anything is possible, curses can be broken, and that the future remains unwritten.

The Bills appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls (XXV-XXVII, 1991-1994), losing all four contests. Since joining the NFL in 1970 (when the AFL and NFL merged), the Bills have yet to win a Super Bowl. Similarly, since joining the NHL in 1970, the Buffalo Sabres have yet to win the Stanley Cup. The Sabres appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975 and 1999, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars, respectively.

The Bills, currently with a 4-7 record, will likely miss this year’s playoffs; the team has made only one postseason appearance since 1999. Meanwhile, the Sabres currently sit atop the NHL standings with a 17-6 record. It’s still the early going of an 82-game season, but the Sabres should have a good shot at making the postseason after finishing last in the league in three of the previous five seasons.

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Former NFL player and coach to become full-time consultant

16 April 2019

Robert Mathis spent 14 years playing for the National Football League (NFL)’s Indianapolis Colts. He is a six-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl winner. After retiring, he joined the Colts again, first as a volunteer assistant coach in the 2017 offseason, then to full-time when the season began.

Mathis has now stepped down from his coaching position – but he isn’t done with the Colts just yet. He plans to stay with the team as a pass-rush consultant. “Yeah, he just stepped back to just a consulting role,” Frank Reich, the Colts’ head coach, told reporters. “So still kind of helping on pass-rush stuff, but not full-time. Just periodically coming in, helping. So in spirit still with us.”

Mathis holds a Colts franchise record of 123 sacks and 54 forced fumbles – the most in NFL history. As for his consulting career, Mathis will be on staff at Pro X Athlete, a professional-level training facility which employs several former pro athletes in Westfield, Indianapolis.

The move comes from Mathis’s desire to step away from the playing field and spend more time with his family, according to ESPN. It will also allow Mathis to spend more time with players, should they need it. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, an assistant coach is limited in the amount of time he or she can spend training athletes during the offseason. This point is moot if players are training with a consultant or trainer, such as those as Pro X Athlete, as they are not officially associated with any team.Former NFL player and coach to become full-time consultant“The Colts have done a great job supporting me,” Mathis told ESPN’s Mike Wells. “I’m still a partner with them. I’m just not a coach with the team anymore. They know my heart is in a good place. They know I have good intentions and that I want the best for them. This is one of the ways I feel like I can help them. It’s a win-win because I still get to do what I’m passionate about in teaching while helping guys on the team I spent my entire career with.”

“It’s a big jump going from playing to coaches. It’s a big commitment,” Reich added. “I think it can be a win-win, where he can still be there and still offer his wisdom and stuff to us at appropriate times and in appropriate ways.”

Mathis’s somewhat lateral move isn’t entirely strange. Professional athletes often stick around their chosen sport after retirement. To do otherwise can prove difficult. While often wealthy, retired athletes are sometimes lost to the wind when it comes to marketable skills that would allow them to enter other areas of business.

EY and Athlete Career Transition (ACT) joined forces to combat this in March 2017, with EY offering “athletes around the globe with professional roles within its global operation, as well as the necessary training and development resources to make the transition possible." 

Related: NFL coaches and Fortune 50 CEOs go head-to-head