Ralph Wilson Stadium opened on August 17, 1973 and has provided an abundance of fantastic memories for thousands of people in its 39-year existence.
There were the early 1990s, where the Bills owned the AFC, making the stadium one of the league's most happening places. Who could forget that 1993 playoff comeback against the Houston Oilers? Or that 2011 win against New England, which landed the Bills on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Other than playing host to some great Bills memories, the stadium played host to some other epic moments. More than 71,000 fans saw the Sabres drop a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 NHL Winter Classic. The Who, the Grateful Dead, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Van Halen and 'N Sync have all performed at the venue made for Bills football.
As do all stadiums, Ralph Wilson Stadium played a crucial part of the Buffalo culture and has provided fantastic memories for anybody who stepped foot in the 73,967 capacity stadium.
However, the reality is that all good things must come to an end. And as the league continues to develop, and the Ralph continues to age, the question must be asked: Would Buffalo rather have Ralph Wilson Stadium or the Bills?
The current lease for the stadium was set to expire on July 31, 2013. As of right now, renovating the Ralph would be in the $200-$220 million price range. The renovations would take roughly three years to complete from the starting date. The team also generates about $20 million through state taxes, proving the state is committed to keeping the team in Buffalo.
Owner Ralph Wilson is now 93, but he seems to have no intentions of selling the team or relocating it. The truth of the matter is that Wilson doesn't appear to have a lot of years left, and if he passes before this stadium issue is revolved, the Buffalo Bills could be in a great deal of trouble.
For the price of $220 million in renovations, the Bills might as well invest in building a new stadium. If the Bills want to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium, there is no guarantee that the stadium will be good to go for decades.
The uncertainty with the stadium situation, and how to fund the renovations or rebuilding has linked Buffalo to relocation possibilities. They have played annually in Toronto, and the league has been imminent on spreading the game beyond the border. A possible hop over the border might satisfy the league's expansion to an international game and would geographically make sense.
There are always rumors of teams relocating to Los Angeles, as the city is preparing itself for the return of NFL football. If the Bills continue to struggle with their stadium dilemma, speculation over relocation will continue to grow.
The Buffalo Bills need to remain the Buffalo Bills, making the need to settle the stadium situation happen quickly. Renovating a near 40-year-old stadium for more than $200 million just doesn't make sense. Over those 40 years, only the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs have remained in their same stadium. Of those teams, Oakland and San Diego are rumored to relocate to Los Angeles, and San Francisco has locked up a plan to build a new stadium.
Here are the five newest stadiums and their prices.
|Stadium Name||Team||Year Opened||Price|
|Cowboys Stadium||Dallas Cowboys||2009||$1.194 billion|
|MetLife Stadium||New York Giants/New York Jets||2009||$1.6 billion|
|Lucas Oil Stadium||Indianapolis Colts||2008||$719.6 million|
|University of Phoenix Stadium||Arizona Cardinals||2006||$455.7 million|
|Lincoln Financial Field||Philadelphia Eagles||2003||$518 million|
The Bills might be better off building a new stadium and ensuring stability in Buffalo. A new stadium was proposed for the city of Buffalo, but it is unlikely for that exact proposal to be executed.
If the Bills create a new home, they can make Buffalo a destination. A retractable roof would be ideal for fans and allow for weather to remain an advantage. What would Buffalo be without winter? The Bills can still play the Dolphins in the snow with a retractable roof, and the fans wouldn't be drenched in less than ideal conditions.
Buffalo is running out of time to make a decision, but building a new stadium is the best way to go. For the price it would take to renovate the Ralph, the Bills might as well create a new stadium, which would ensure stability.
As long as nothing happens as Wilson continues to age, there will be nothing but uncertainty in Buffalo. And nobody wants that.