The opinions about where to put a new stadium, who’s going to pay for it, and why the team even needs one are all valid questions. I decided to try to answer some of these questions and give my opinions on the proposed sites for new stadium construction and then tell you what I think will happen, and what I want to happen.
What’s wrong with New Era Field?
Ask ten people that question, and you may get ten different answers. The most popular answer from fans would be “Nothing.” I’m not saying that fans don’t have some ideas on how to make the stadium better. What I’m saying is that very few, if any, of those involve the words “new stadium.”
Are the concourses a bit small? Yes. Is the stadium lacking in the legroom department? Absolutely. Now, if you ask the NFL and its owners what the problem is, they will tell you the Bills need a modern stadium to stay competitive. You’re probably asking yourself “stay competitive with whom?”
The NBA? NHL? XFL? Nope, the NFL is competing against itself. Modern technology has made going to the game an option, not a necessity. The NFL needs the billions it gets from the TV networks to make the salary cap structure work, so they need you to watch the game, but they also need you to go. Add up the money teams make from tickets, merchandise, food, beer, and parking, and we are talking about millions of dollars in revenue. So, if the Bills were to build a new stadium or renovate New Era field, not only would they have a stadium that would last for another 50 years or more, they would add more bells and whistles, and ticket prices would undoubtedly go up.
What are the options for a New Stadium?
A new stadium was being talked about by fans the league itself almost as soon as the Pegula family finalized their purchase of the team, with everyone seemingly wanting in on the action. From city officials …
To the Tonawanda Supervisor …
And even the average fan …
The Buffalo News ran an article a few years ago about four possible new stadium sites, three of them in downtown Buffalo and the fourth literally 20 yards away from the current stadium in Orchard Park. I won’t bore you with all the details from that article. Instead, I’ll do a quick synopsis by location :
1.) The first site is about one block away from the hockey arena. This site would be bordered by Michigan and South Park streets and eat up most of the fenced-in HSBC parking lot (sorry Sabres fans).
2.) The second site is roughly one block south of the Seneca Niagara Casino, which sits about three blocks from the hockey arena.
3.) The next site is right around four blocks Northeast of the hockey arena and the casino.
4.) Site four is right next to the current stadium.
As you might imagine, each sight has its pros and cons, its lovers and haters. But what’s best for Western New York, the Buffalo Bills, and their fans?
Renovation vs. New – Pros and Cons
Pros of a new stadium downtown:
- Shorter drive for fans from the City, northern suburbs, and Southern Ontario
- Would bring more visitors to downtown Buffalo eight weekends a year.
- Closer to public transportation and downtown hotels.
- Less (or no) tailgating (Booooo Charlie hates tailgating), which might create a family-friendly atmosphere
Cons of a new stadium downtown:
- Where would everyone park?
- How many roads would have to be redone or altered?
- Traffic congestion. For those of you who have been to a Sabres game and been stuck in traffic, the hockey arena holds about 18,000 people. A new football stadium would hold about 70,000 people. Where would they put the RV lot? Less (or no) tailgating
Pros of a new or renovated stadium at its current location:
- The fans and police all are very familiar with how to get cars in and out of the parking lots surrounding the stadium.
- All the businesses around the stadium would keep the daily business they get from the team, not to mention the obvious huge boost they get on game days
Cons of a stadium in Orchard Park:
- It’s a far drive for most fans
- Not many hotels close to the stadium
- Not much public transportation
Who’s paying and how much will it cost?
The answer to who’s paying is quite simple: some combination of Erie County, New York State, the Buffalo Bills, and the NFL.
The tricky question is, how much it will cost? How much “renovating” will be done? It cost 655 Million to renovate Soldier Field in Chicago in 2003. In 2013, the Packers paid 140 Million to renovate Lambeau Field. My guess is that renovating New Era Field would cost about 500 Million.
The reason I believe this is that the Bills just did a small renovation of the stadium a few years ago, which cost about 140 Million. They aren’t talking about that kind of renovation this time. It will be a comprehensive renovation.
Meanwhile, the four newest stadiums in the NFL have cost 750 Million, 1.15 Billion, 1.5 Billion, and 1.9 Billion dollars respectively.
I believe that the stadium will stay in Orchard Park. I think Terry and Kim Pegula are very Intune with the community and realize it can’t support a brand-new stadium with high ticket prices. While I would prefer they build a new stadium across the street from the current one, I’m 90% convinced they will renovate the current one.
It wasn’t a coincidence that after years of talking about the Bills needing a new stadium, Roger Goodell mentioned a “significantly renovated” stadium a few days after the Pegula’s stadium commission finished up its study. What I’m saying is they called him up and told him their study indicated the best thing to do is renovate New Era Field. If that is what happens, keeping the stadium in Orchard Park is the right decision. In my humble opinion, of course.