As the NFL continues to press the Buffalo Bills into action for a new stadium, team officials appear to be taking their time. In what owner Kim Pegula called a “fact-finding” process, the Bills are still trying to determine what would be the best fit for the Buffalo market going forward.
As we noted this spring, the NFL has ranked the Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium as the league’s third-worst stadium, ahead of only O.Coliseum and Qualcomm Stadium—the respective homes of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. With both of those teams actively pursuing new stadiums, the NFL is stating its desire that the Bills find a more modern venue, something that commissioner Roger Goddell repeated upon a recent visit to Buffalo.
The issue, according to Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) officials, is that Buffalo requires a different planning process because of its market size. In terms of designated market area (DMA), only Green Bay is smaller among NFL host cities, and Buffalo joins Baltimore as just one of two areas that is not home to a Fortune 500 company.
The challenge in that case is not only finding a proper funding model for a new stadium, but to ensure that the cost of attending a game is still within the market’s reach. More from the Democrat & Chronicle:
“We are the 53rd DMA (designated market area) in the country (Green Bay is No. 70),” said Bruce Popko, the executive vice-president of business and development for PSE. “Our realities are different than a lot of other markets. There are realities and real ceilings that everyone has to understand.”
Here’s what Popko means: Bills fans, though many may not realize it, are spoiled. Not by the success of the team, but by what it costs to spend a day at the Ralph. They pay the lowest average ticket prices in the NFL, and nowhere is the cost of suites, premium seats, concessions, and parking lower than Buffalo.
“Just because we think the community should pay a quarter of a million dollars for a suite doesn’t mean the community is going to pay a quarter of a million dollars for a suite,” said Popko. “Having it in discussion is very different than the reality of a conversation when you’re sitting across from someone negotiating these types of deals.”
Before the 2014 season, Ralph Wilson Stadium was renovated to the tune of $130 million, bringing about changes that included an enhanced videoboard, upgraded entrances, new team store, modern lounge space, upgrades to Wi-Fi accessibility, and improvements to concessions and restrooms. However, that overhaul still fell short of making the now 43-year-old facility viable by NFL standards, meaning that new stadium talks are likely to continue, even if PSE takes its time in mapping out a new proposal.
Image of Ralph Wilson Stadium courtesy Buffalo Bills.