We end 2019 with a countdown of the five biggest stories of the year on Football Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #4: the future of a new or renovated Buffalo Bills stadium is studied.
With an ongoing study of Buffalo Bills stadium options expected in the coming months from ownership group Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE) the future of the franchise was mapped out in 2019 and should be finalized in 2020.
That the many shortcomings in New Era Field, which originally opened in 1973, need to be addressed is really a foregone conclusion. The PSE-commissioned study from CAA Icon is designed to lay out options for a new stadium at the present New Era Field site in suburban Orchard Park or perhaps near downtown Buffalo, or a renovation of the former Rich Stadium / Ralph Wilson Stadium. A new downtown stadium has been pushed by state and local officials as a potential economic development plan; keeping the stadium at the Orchard Park site doesn’t seem to have the same economic-development potential.
Indeed, that debate—retaining the New Era Field experience versus potential new economic activity—will likely be the one that plays out in 2020. Fans in cold-weather cities tend to play up home-field advantages in games played in below-freezing temps, and you could easily see a scenario that maintains that Buffalo Bills cold-weather experience while adding more game-day comforts a la Lambeau Field. But you could also maintain that Buffalo Bills cold-weather experience in a new open-air downtown Buffalo stadium as well. Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula say they’ll be devoted to a top-notch fan experience no matter what the study recommends.
New Era Field is currently the sixth-oldest stadium in the NFL but will move up two notches once the Los Angeles Rams depart the Coliseum for SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA and the Raiders officially take up residency in Las Vegas. Being old, however, doesn’t automatically mean a stadium is deficient: Lambeau Field, the third-oldest NFL stadium after Soldier Field and the Coliseum, offers one of the best NFL game-day experiences thanks to recent renovations and additions, keeping the classic bowl intact while adding supporting infrastructure. Similarly, Arrowhead Stadium (which opened in 1972) offers a classic bowl that’s been upgraded with concourse and luxury-seating overhauls in recent years.
Image courtesy Buffalo Bills.