Nov 17, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills fans celebrate a touchdown by the team during the first half against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
It has been widely reported that in order for the Buffalo Bills to remain entrenched in western New York for years to come, new ownership will need to devise a plan to build a new stadium for the team. To me, one of the most compelling storylines surrounding new stadium construction will be WHERE the stadium is actually located. In my opinion, the location of the new site will be one of the toughest decisions the “Stadium Working Group” will face. Many outlets and organizations have already begun voicing their beliefs on the ideal fit for a new stadium. The prevailing output of these reports puts the Bills new home in one of four potential locations. Bills fans, what site would you like to see as new home for your team?
- Current site of Ralph Wilson Stadium
Many fans would like to see the Bills stay right where they are, and rather than moving locations completely, there is the option of completely overhauling and renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium as it stands today. Built in 1973, Ralph Wilson Stadium has seen several renovations over the years, so the fact shouldn’t be ignored that several million dollars have already been pumped into improving the current venue. Although less relevant for this discussion, it is also worth noting that Ralph Wilson Stadium currently ranks 11th as far as seating capacity in the entire NFL. The site itself surrounding the stadium is ideal for tailgating, and the Bills Fieldhouse is in direct proximity as well. While a new practice facility could certainly be constructed along with a new stadium, the fact that the two buildings are at the same location now could make for a stronger argument to build a new stadium at the current site. The cost for a new Field House would likely be miniscule compared to the general stadium costs, but is a point worth considering for the contingent arguing to maintain location.
- Batavia, NY
A wildcard location if you will, the mention of Batavia as a potential site for the new stadium surfaced last week from The Daily News. There are few details around an actual construction plan at this point, but rumor states the Batavia site could exceed 600 acres. The current location of Ralph Wilson Stadium, including the Bills Field House, parking lots, etc. only comprises nearly 200 acres. Batavia is located in Genesee County and essentially splits the difference in miles between Buffalo and Rochester. The talks of “regionalizing” the Bills are nothing new, and Batavia could make logical sense from a location perspective to draw bigger crowds from fans in the Rochester area. Obviously, a site located in Batavia would appear, at least on the surface, to hurt the attendance of the Toronto fan base. Team(s) with similar venues: Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys
- Buffalo’s Outer Harbor
A popular location amongst Bills fans, a site located in Buffalo’s outer harbor would be the closest location to downtown Buffalo, and would also provide a lakefront home location for the team. Talks surfaced in 2012 that a stadium located in the outer harbor could have a retractable roof. Depending on your point of view, a retractable roof stadium would give the Bills flexibility to still allow for games played in the “elements,” but could also be a selling point for the team to eventually win a bid as a possible Super Bowl site. It could also potentially reinvigorate, or even reinvent, the industrial area on Lake Erie. Team(s) with similar venues: Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns
- Niagara Falls
If the team does not outright move to Toronto, which looks to be the case for now, the site that could still attract the Canadian fan base would be a location in Niagara Falls. The distance from Rochester to Niagara Falls is only about 10-15 more miles than it would be to a site in downtown Buffalo. The fan base in Buffalo and Orchard Park would likely be against a site location in Niagara Falls. One of the primary issues with this potentially location would be the lack of infrastructure and commercializing that is generally required for a stadium site.
My personal opinion is that if the Bills do not get a new stadium in their current location, I’d welcome a site near the outer harbor. A retractable roof stadium would be more appealing to the NFL for Buffalo to potentially play host to a Super Bowl some time down the road. Even given the fact that precedent has now been set for cold weather locations to host the Super Bowl; the flexibility a retractable roof stadium provides a team and a city can only enhance the chances of winning a host bid. Albeit Cleveland is a slightly larger market than Buffalo, it is still considered small by NFL standards. The fact that Cleveland has been successful with their lakefront venue should comfort the Bills if they also choose a similar option.