About 60% of steel for Bills new stadium to come from New York


Staff member

The first steel is starting to go up for the new Buffalo Bills stadium, less than 6 miles from the Bethlehem Steel complex that once was the hub of the region’s powerful steelmaking industry.

That steelmaking capability is gone now, so none of the roughly 25,000 tons of steel going into the Bills’ $1.7 billion stadium will come from the Buffalo Niagara region.

But much of it still will come from New York.

State officials said Friday they anticipate 60% of all the structural steel that will be used in one of Western New York’s largest ever construction projects will be produced in the state. Almost all of it will be manufactured in the United States.

“We wanted to see domestic steel, and we’re obviously looking for as much of the materials and labor to be as local as possible,” said Steven Ranalli, president at Erie County Stadium Corp.

“It’s a big job so it attracts a lot of national firms to come in but they’re all bringing in local subcontractors and minority- and women-owned businesses and service-disabled businesses to support along the way,” he said.

The state is working with Cives Steel Co., a national firm headquartered in St. Lawrence, north of the Adirondacks, as the prime contractor for the steel work. The company will use three fabrication shops throughout New York to deliver the steel for the project.

Steel from New York will also be manufactured at JPW Structural Contracting in Syracuse and A&T Ironworks in New Rochelle.

Steel production in New York isn’t what it used to be. These days, the state’s steel production is under 1 million tons annually, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

That pales in comparison to the nation’s leader in steel production, Indiana, which made over 21 million tons of steel in 2022, and even the second highest steel producer, Ohio, with more than 10 million tons of steel made that year.

The U.S. no longer dominates global steel production. Of the nearly 2 billion metric tons of steel produced annually across the globe, about 54% comes from China, according to the World Steel Association. The U.S. currently ranks No. 4 in steel production, also trailing Japan and India.

“It’s always a challenge in a project this size to bring in the materials and labor that you need to complete it, but we’ve been pleased with where we’re at today,” Ranalli said.

Workers will use the structural steel that will soon inundate the worksite on Abbott Road, across the street from the current facility, to build the skeleton of the open-air, 1.35 million-square-foot stadium.

Steel will go up level by level around the bowl, starting in the northwest corner of the stadium and proceeding to the southeast corner. Level one of the steel installation will keep the work below the surface of the ground, but level two – starting in the late spring – and beyond will peak over the ground and then get higher from there. The final level is level five, which will consist of the stadium canopy 200 feet in the air.

The hanging of steel marks a transformation of the project that started almost eight months ago from “the pit” into what will look like an actual stadium taking shape. The over 60,000-seat stadium is expected to be completed before the start of the 2026 season.

A ceremony Friday marked the hanging of the first steel beam – a 40-foot, 26,000-pound piece of structural steal. Many of the workers stopped to watch and take photos of the beam as it hung in the air and then made its way into the ground with the help of a crane and the workers below.
The 22-foot, 1,225-pound beam recently signed by local and state officials and hundreds of local union laborers on the job will be put up at a later date at the north entrance of the stadium.

“As workers hoist into place the first structural steel at the new Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, we want to recognize the many dedicated workers who have safely played an instrumental role in the initial phases of the project and those who will work on the project moving forward as we look ahead to our first game in the new stadium in 2026,” Josh Dziurlikowski, Bills interim chief operating officer and senior vice president of finance and business administration, said in a statement.

Five massive cranes will be used to help put the steel into place in building the stadium, state officials said. Each crane took about a week to assemble. They include equipment that monitors their operations, as well as wind, so that if the gusts get too severe, operations will be shut down.

The installation of precast concrete panels to provide critical support and stability to the excavation area and the pouring of concrete foundations to support the structural steel continue on the excavated worksite as well. Workers are on the job seven days a week, during both first and second shifts.

Structural steel is close to being ready to go up nine months into the construction of the $1.7 billion project in Orchard Park. The concrete that sets the stage to build the steel frame has been poured, allowing hundreds of workers to soon start on the skeleton of the stadium. That will take at least a year to complete, with the canopy for the stadium going on around this time next year.

“From here Erie County residents and Bills Nation members worldwide will be able to see real, tangible proof that the new home of the Bills is under construction and building towards the season opener in 2026,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said recently that more than 800 workers have been involved in the project so far, with about 300 working at the site daily. But state officials expect that will balloon to about 1,500 a day as some of the more detailed work gets underway.

At this stage of the project, more than 95% of the laborers on the project are local, including 18.5% of work hours going to minorities and 10.3% of work hours being completed by non-minority women, state officials said. The project is expected to create 10,000 jobs.

Local subcontractors working on the steel include Seneca Steel Erectors of West Seneca, Steel Tech Fabricators from Rochester, Huntress Painting of Niagara Falls and Interstate Steel Sales of Orchard Park. At least eight local unions representing laborers, carpenters, teamsters, engineers, plumbers, electricians, and cement masons will be on the job while steel is being erected, state officials said.

“The stadium is a big win for the region and especially for the hardworking men and women of the Buffalo Building Trades Council ,” said Paul Brown, president of the Buffalo Building Trades Council and board member for the Erie County Stadium Corp., in a statement.