Buffalo Bills: Do They Really Need a New Stadium?


Buffalo Bills: Do They Really Need a New Stadium?

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As reported by Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula recently took part in a “Business of Sports” breakfast. The 90-minute discussion was held by Buffalo Business First at Buffalo RiverWorks, in front of roughly 500 people.

Pegula was joined at the event by his wife and co-owner, Kim Pegula, along with Robert E. Rich, who owns the Buffalo Bisons, and his wife Mindy. Closing out the panel were Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

As you can imagine with such a high-profile group, there were a lot of interesting topics brought up. However, of most relevance to Bills fans, was a question in respect of if and when they are likely to build a new stadium.

Oct 12, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula and his wife Kim Pegula before a game against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

As you’d expect, Pegula was both diplomatic and sensible in his response, as quoted by Gaughan: “There’s been a lot of money put into Ralph Wilson Stadium…We’re in no hurry.

“We realize that if that work was just done, how foolish would you look if you start looking around for a new stadium when we’ve just renovated the one we have? We have time.”

Part of the reason the Bills have time, is due to the current lease with Ralph Wilson Stadium. The deal, which was agreed with the state of New York at the end of 2012, runs through the 2022 season.

Peguala was asked if he believes the local community will be supportive, when it comes time to make a decision about the stadium situation: “I hope so, but it’s nothing urgent right now.”

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However, while there is no current urgency, eventually something will need to be done, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell previously stating a new stadium will be necessary long-term in Western New York. In fact, it was speculated that the Pegulas agreed to build a new stadium, in order to secure the deal to take over as owners of the Bills.

The question is, do the Bills actually need a new building? Why not just stay at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which a lot of fans would prefer?

I understand the pressure from Goodell, and likely other NFL owners. Their thinking is that any new building would include – among other things – additional executive suites, thus resulting in even more money for the league. (As if the NFL needs any help with this.)

There is also a push for any new stadium to be built in the downtown core of Buffalo. Admittedly, this would certainly help with the continued revitalization of the area.

Nov 20, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of the field and seating area of Ralph Wilson Stadium after a major snow storm hit the area. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

However, there are logistical concerns about what affect this would have on the extra traffic heading downtown for games. Additionally, traditionalists are worried a new stadium would include a roof, thus taking away a key advantage the Bills have over visiting teams, when the cold weather starts to kick in.

(In the interests of objectivity, I appreciate the arguments of the pro-roof crowd. For example, it was not exactly ideal when the Bills game against the Jets last season had to be moved to Detroit, due to over five feet of snow in Buffalo.) 

One final factor to consider, is what affect a new downtown stadium would have on the tailgating parties, with the experience potentially being compromised, if not outright ruined. Bills fans are quite rightly proud of these events, which are arguably one of – if not the – best of their kind in the NFL.

Personally, I’d like to see the Bills remain at Orchard Park. Now that the Pegulas are in charge, perhaps they can do more extensive renovations to the current building?

If enough money is put into Ralph Wilson stadium, could that potentially satisfy Goodell? In some respects, you can look at Lambeau field as an example of how it is possible to remain where you are. (Lambeau Field was opened in 1957, making it 16 years older than the Bills current home.)

Of course, for the amount of money it could potentially take to get Ralph Wilson Stadium up to scratch, it could be argued that you may as well just start over. Perhaps another option is to build the new stadium in Orchard Park, although this then raises questions of where the Bills would play during construction?

Ultimately, I realise that Goodell and the other NFL owners will likely get what they want. As such, it’s up to the Pegulas to come up with a solution that will appease all relevant parties.

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