In a dream season, the Buffalo Bills went 13-3, advanced to the AFC Championship, and saw their quarterback, Josh Allen, transform into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. With that improvement from Allen and the acquisition of Stefon Diggs, the Bills passing offense became one of the best in the NFL in 2020. With a team that has propelled themselves into relevancy and more importantly appears to be a Super Bowl contender for the foreseeable future, some of the attention turns toward their stadium.
Since 1973, Rich Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium, New Era Field, or now just Bills Stadium has been the home of the Buffalo Bills. Over the 47 year history of the stadium, some renovations have taken place. In 1984 the Stadium’s capacity increased to 80,290 following the construction of 16 executive suites. In 1992, 24 more executive suites were added to the stadium. Two years later Red Zone and Goal Line club seats were added. This also included the addition of a massive Jumbotron on the stadium’s west end zone.
In 1998, larger seats and more luxury boxes were added to the stadium. This reduced the capacity to just 74,000. Throughout the 2000s, the turf was replaced several times and new scoreboards were added. The final renovation took place in 2013 where the stadium underwent many changes. New scoreboards were added, larger entry gates were made, more concession stands, and improved bathrooms. Most notably was the addition of Founders Plaza that included a new team store and a statue of Ralph Wilson Jr.
It may seem like a lot of work has been done to the stadium. However, in comparison to the rest of the NFL, this is not the case. The only stadiums older than Bills Stadium in the NFL is Arrowhead Stadium (built in 1972), Soldier Field (built in 1971), and Lambeau Field (built in 1957). All of these have gone under massive renovations over the years and have made their stadiums quite modern.
The NFL has made it clear they want the Bills to build a new, state of the art stadium or have massive renovations done to their current stadium. Here is a quote from Roger Goodell during the Super Bowl last year in Miami.
“A stadium that is going to be competitive with other stadiums around the league is going to be important in that context,” Goodell said in regards to the Bills Stadium. “I think everyone is committed to that, whether it’s a new significant renovation or a completely different facility in a new place.”
This is not the first time Goodell has somewhat called out the Bills for their stadium situation. In 2019 Goodell made comments at Jim Kelly’s charity golf tournament calling for a new stadium in Buffalo. There is no question that the Bills need a new or highly renovated stadium soon. The questions remain: What will they do? When will they do it? If building a new stadium is the decision, where will it be?
From the fans perspective, it’s been clear. In a Twitter poll that I posted on my Twitter account asking fans what they wanted when it came to a new stadium here are the results:
Nearly half of the participants voted for a new stadium with a roof. Which likely goes with what the trend is with new stadiums in the NFL. Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts), Allegiant Stadium (Raiders), Sofi Stadium (Chargers & Rams), AT&T Stadium (Cowboys), U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings), and Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Falcons) all were built in the past 15 years. All of which are indoor stadiums.
The future may be indoor stadiums in downtown areas. There is no question the Bills Stadium (or whatever name you call it) is an outdated facility. There is a lot of charm about the stadium too. The Orchard Park atmosphere of tailgate lots and yards everywhere you look. Having a stadium with the crazy winter weather that you don’t see in many other places. It’s all great.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a money-making business. If the most profitable option is a dome stadium in downtown Buffalo, then that is what will probably be the case. If staying in Orchard Park is as profitable then the Bills might stay in Orchard Park. Ultimately, the stadium will go where the money goes.