Situated just ten miles from Buffalo in Orchard Park and around thirty from Niagara Falls is Bills Stadium, famous home of NFL team the Buffalo Bills in New York State.
Owned by Erie County, the stadium has been open for the best part of fifty years and is a permanent fixture on the National Football League circuit.
History of the Bills Stadium
After their inauguration as an NFL franchise in1960 and for thirteen seasons afterwards, the Buffalo Bills played at the War Memorial Stadium. Open since way back in 1938 and nicknamed the Rockpile, it had become somewhat run-down with a lower than ideal capacity (under 50,000) for a team such as the Bills.
After the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970 it was mandated that a minimum of 50,000 seats was required in each NFL stadium, so a new home was required.
In 1971, various locations were explored, with the team owner even thinking of moving the franchise away, possibly to Tampa, Memphis or Seattle. With this hanging over the city’s head, a new stadium project was given priority and building work began in 1972. The new stadium was initially called the Rich Stadium when it opened in 1973.
Given the cost involved in its construction, it was decided that naming rights would be sold to bring in some of the revenue. The first sponsor was Rich Products, a food company based in Buffalo who bought a $1.5million in a 25 year naming rights deal.
Another local company, New Era Cap Company, bought the rights in 2016 for $35 million over seven years and it was renamed New Era Field. However, this deal was ended early by mutual consent and compensation agreed. All New Era Field marketing materials and stadium signage were removed in 2020. The team decided it would use the name Bills Stadium until a new sponsor is found for a naming rights deal.
Key Stats and Figures
With its distinctive open-air look, the Bills Stadium is iconic and generates a terrific atmosphere. Despite all the romance, history and character of the place, however, we still need basic facts and stats, so here they are.
- Opened: August 17, 1973. Work originally started on the stadium in April 1972.
- Renovated: 1998 and 2013.
- Capacity: 71,608. This has gradually shrunk over the years due to modernisations, from 80,020 in 1972, to 75,339 in 1999 and 73,079 in 2008 to today’s figure.
- Playing Surface: A-Turf Titan 50, a new synthetic blend that in 2011 replaced the previous AstroPlay surface. The stadium initially had an old-fashioned AstroTurf surface from 1973 to 2002.
- Cost: The construction initially cost $22 million, around $129 million in 2020 money.
- Other Facts: There wasn’t an NFL playoff game here until 1988, when the Bills beat Houston Oilers 17-10. Since the venue opened, the Buffalo Bills have beaten every other NFL team at the venue at least once.
Other Uses for the Bills Stadium
While many NFL stadiums also double-up as soccer stadiums, the field dimensions here are specific to American football so no major soccer matches have taken place here. These dimensions allow not just coaches but also fans to get closer to the action when the Bills are playing.
That said, other events have taken and do take place here, including some college football and ice hockey. On New Year’s Day 2008 the Buffalo Sabres beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Winter Classic.
As is often the case, the stadium’s other major source of income and use is for concerts.
Major acts playing at the stadium can play up to 94,000 and include:
- Lynyrd Skynyrd (twice)
- The Rolling Stones (five times)
- Fleetwood Mac
- Elton John (twice)
- The Who (twice)
- The Jacksons
- Bob Dylan
- Van Halen
- Guns N’ Roses
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