The Bills new 10-year lease agreement with the state and Erie County was a welcome sight for Bills fans Friday. What will be even more welcoming is what they’ll soon be experiencing on Sundays at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The $130 million earmarked for stadium renovations in the agreement will largely go toward improving the game day setting for fans.
“This plan preserves and modernizes Ralph Wilson Stadium,” said Bills CEO Russ Brandon. “On one hand it doesn’t materially impact the footprint of Ralph Wilson Stadium. What it does do is enhance the game day and fan experience.”
While the initial phase of the improvement plan will deal with reinforcing the infrastructure of the 40-year old stadium in 2013, come the end of 2014 there will be several new amenities for fans taking in a game at the Ralph.
“It’s going to update the technology of the building where we’re a state of the art franchise in terms of the technology elements we provide our fan base,” said Brandon. “It’s going to update restrooms, update concessions and provide new options for concessions.
“We’re going to create a west end zone plaza, which will be a communal type of gathering spot. We’re going to build a state of the art large team store, which will couple the restructuring of the gates in the building where we’ll provide more options for fans to enter Ralph Wilson Stadium. It’s going to change the curb appeal and the front door of Ralph Wilson Stadium.”
There are also plans for a second video board to be installed in the east end zone among other improvements.
“We’re continuing to work with Populus right now with where we’re going to take the facility,” Brandon said. “We’ve been working with them for over two years and at some point we’ll have a formal media presentation so our fans can see what our upgrades will look like.”
That presentation is expected to take place in the next month or so.
Exploring future options
Contained in the lease agreement is proactive language to explore the feasibility of a new stadium in Erie County, with stipulations that would allow half the capital improvement funds to be used to conduct studies related to a new stadium location, design and development.
“Part of this agreement is to look at the potential of what a new stadium and what that would mean not only for the Buffalo Bills, for Western New York, the region, economic development, whatever it may be,” Brandon told Buffalobills.com. “Will it make sense a decade down the road in our economic times to build a stadium? What would that return on investment be back to the community, the state and the Bills? I’m excited about the potential down the road to be a part of a committee that takes a look at whether it makes sense. That’s what we’ll all find out.”
At this point however, the focus is on improving the current stadium for the benefit of Bills fans whose loyalty has been unmatched.
“The foundation of the plan is in place,” said Brandon. “We’ve spent many, many hours including yesterday spending the whole day with our architects over some of the different activations that we’re going to have throughout the plan. It’s really going to take Ralph Wilson Stadium to a new level.”