Dreaming Up a Legends Plaza for the New Bills Stadium

A new Buffalo Bills stadium is coming, there’s no doubt about it. While there are still some pushing for a renovation or construction of a new stadium in Orchard Park, it appears all but assured that the Bills will be calling downtown Buffalo home in the near future.

Here’s the template for the Jim Kelly statue.

The most recent chip to fall in the Bills’ stadium saga was the release of the State report detailing the recommended sites based on the opinion and expertise of the New York State commissioned report. Of the four sites they mention, three are in downtown Buffalo and two of those are located a stone’s throw from the front door of First Niagara Center.

While the State’s report does not need to be taken as gospel, there is clear momentum building towards a downtown stadium that will more than likely join with First Niagara Center, HarborCenter and Coca-Coal Field in creating a cohesive arena/entertainment district. Coupled with the revitalization of Ohio Street and the riverfront and the continued growth and success of Canalside, Buffalo will have the opportunity to have a phenomenal entertainment district situated right on the waterfront.

There are still plenty of hurdles to clear in terms of getting a stadium built. There’s no guarantee that Terry Pegula or anyone else involved in the financing and construction of this project will choose one of the four sites the State selected. Nor is there any official word on what the stadium will ultimately look like. But I have one idea to make the exterior of Buffalo’s new downtown stadium stand out.

Depending on logistics, infrastructure and general design constraints, I’d love to see some sort of fan plaza or grand exterior entryway factored into the design of the new stadium. Something similar to the mezzanine area at Gillette Stadium or even the oft-photographed plaza at AT&T Stadium in Dallas is what I have in mind. Continue reading

716 Sports Podcast guest appearance

I was asked to come step in as a guest on the 716 Sports Podcast yesterday and had a great time talking about the Bills, Sabres, Pegula and Buffalo with the group. The guys get together on a weekly basis and produce a very strong product, I highly recommend checking them out regularly. Enjoy my Ed Jovanovski reference about halfway through.

Click here to listen direct.

The 2ITB Plan for a Bills stadium

The Bills sale is going to close before we know it and the focus will shift from who will be purchasing the team to what that new owner plans to do for a new stadium.

More than a few opinions are floating around currently and this week’s Artvoice cover story goes into great detail about a very cool plan for a new stadium in the heart of downtown. It is a phenomenal article written by a pair of stadium experts with the details worked out and planned by a true expert.

I really love the idea of depressing the 190 and eliminating a great deal of the barriers that sever the central business district from the waterfront. My concern is that the costs associated with such a project would ultimately doom this plan, despite its resounding brilliance. There won’t be a better alternative in terms of quality, preparation and vision compared to what Andrew Kulyk, Peter Farrell and the rest of the Artvoice crew came up with.Bills

That being said, I decided to break down and share my own personal pipe dream for a downtown stadium. In a previous post on this site, I alluded to my interest in utilizing the Perry Projects as the site for a new stadium. I love the proximity to Canalside and First Niagara Center along with the opportunity to reinvigorate a district that has been whittled down to a single block of buildings.

This plan is contingent on one major factor: the development of an adequate replacement to the current Perry Projects. If there isn’t a feasible option for relocating the residents of both the towers and two-story apartments, there is no reason to think about a stadium on this site. Ideally the BMHA (whose office near the Perry projects would need to move as well) would be able to take advantage of the countless vacant lots throughout the city to develop a replacement project. Getting funding for this project from the future owner would certainly go a long way in financing the construction of the new units while aiding in gaining approval for such an undertaking.

Assuming that a new home for the Perry Projects is found, the rest of my proposal follows in a fairly simple path. Upon replacing the Perry Projects, I’d see both the currently occupied buildings along with the vacant ones further south demolished to make way for new development. Everything between Chicago and Hamburg St. could be removed and that land would serve as the location of the new stadium. There would be space for new offices for the Bills as well if that was deemed a necessary addition. You’ll notice that I’m leaving out the field house because I feel that the current one serves the team too well to simply be cast aside. Continue reading

Breaking down the rumored sites for the Bills next home

It’s the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the future of the Bills in Buffalo. Finding a solution to where the Bills will be playing their games for the foreseeable future has presented a myriad of questions, proposals and debates throughout Western New York and it doesn’t appear we’re collectively closer to a final answer than before Ralph Wilson passed away.

The Buffalo News has been the most active in covering various plans and potential owners involved in the saga. They’ve done everything from profiling potential owners to scouting potential stadium sites. Outside of the News’ coverage, it appears as if there is a small handful of locations that have made the unofficial shortlist when it comes to the Bills home turf.

Keeping the team located in Orchard Park has been a popular topic along with spots in and around the Perry Projects, the Outer Harbor and even Niagara Falls. That group, to me, appears to be the most popular at this point in time. Other spots like Scott Congel’s land in West Seneca, Batavia and others have come up, but it seems as if they’re all extreme long shots.

What’s interesting is how the stadium project will factor into the mix with potential owners as well. Tom Golisano, Donald Trump or perhaps even Jeff Gundlach may have the funds to make a competitive bid on the franchise, but do they have the scratch to finance enough of a stadium to limit the need for PSLs – something that’s widely accepted as a non-starter given WNY’s economy? Terry Pegula, on the other hand, has the funds available to go off and buy the team and build the stadium without even searching for public assistance considering his vast wealth. In fact, you could argue that the $1.75 billion he made in his recent land sale is nearly enough to cover the costs associated with purchasing the team and building a new home in one fell swoop.

The various scenarios that can and will play out surrounding the potential owners is a lengthy conversation in and of itself. Placing the primary focus on what seems to work best in terms of a stadium without taking into account future influences from ownership is the point of this post. I’ve been on record voicing my support for a great number of options. At one point I saw the Outer Harbor as a simple solution but I’ve since backed off from that theory. I certainly support the idea of saving the public (and owner) any major costs by putting a serious renovation effort into the Ralph but I’d also love to see a perfect storm converge to see a new stadium built downtown. Continue reading

Upgrades along the line set Bills up for offensive success

You might say that everything has been laid at EJ Manuel’s feet for the upcoming season, but that’s what everyone is saying. Mainly because it’s the truth.

The message was made pretty clear at the draft with the trade up to select Sammy Watkins and the additional investment in offensive players like Bryce Brown, Mike Williams and even Anthony Dixon. Albeit, Dixon is more of a special teams addition than anything else. Where Whaley really invested this offseason was along the line. While adding Watkins and Williams adds even more depth and talent to the receiving corps, the line could see major changes take hold. Since the Bills are boosting their offensive line-up, expect that oddsmakers will surely consider them as a contenders with official NFL betting lines moving in their favor this season, having fans and fantasy pickers taking notice.

Between the signing of Chris Williams, the expected return of a healthy Chris Hairston and draft picks Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson, the Bills two-deep could undergo some serious changes. Continue reading

How Are The Bills Shaping Up?

The new NFL season will be upon us before we know it, with Organized Team Activities already underway. This will be an exciting time for Bills fans, as the team has slowly but surely been (hopefully) heading in the right direction. There should be some star players back to their usual selves after last season, with mainly CJ Spiller in mind, as well as an arsenal of new weapons for second year quarterback EJ Manuel.

With the latest odds at http://www.bettingsports.com/nfl/ the Bills seem to be a ‘middle of the road’ bet in terms of Super Bowl chances. The truth is, they will have to first concentrate on beating the New England Patriots to the AFC East championship, something which, although daunting after the last few years, is becoming more and more realistic.

So what’s new?

The Bills traded up in the 2014 NFL Draft to land some true star power in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. With both size and speed, Watkins is the sort of player that can really take the top off a defense and open up opportunities for his teammates. It was definitely a risk to spend so much to get Watkins, but the Bills needed to provide the offense with a spark, and reinvigorate the fans.

The Bills also added some much needed O-line depth in the draft with Cyrus Kouandijo, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson being added. If Kouandijo and Henderson can overcome troubles (injuries and character red flags respectively), they could prove to be steals. Buffalo also took CB Ross Cockrell, LB Preston Brown and LB Randell Johnson with their remaining picks.

The Star Power

The truth is, if the Bills can gel as a team and pick up a bit of luck with injuries, they have the potential to go far. CJ Spiller can be a downright beast on his day, but struggled through the 2013 season with nagging injuries. He and Watkins could be enough to give any defense fits, and quarterback EJ Manuel could profit from that.

On the defensive side, the D-line looks good on paper, with tackle Marcell Dareus and end Mario Williams providing extreme talent that could hold up against anybody. Young players anchor the back seven, with linebacker Kiko Alonso already a rising star after his rookie season, being named in the NFL’s top 100 players list and cornerback Stephon Gilmore ready for a breakout season.

The fact for the Bills is that a talented young team is being built, and 2014 has the potential to be a great year.

Whaley thought of his offense first with draft picks

Doug Whaley made sure that he put his stamp on the Buffalo Bills with this year’s draft. He made both pragmatic and radical moves over the weekend in what appears to be a clear attempt to end the Bills’ decade-and-a-half playoff drought.

With Sammy Watkins as the obvious crown jewel of the class (as any first round pick would be), Whaley committed to improving Buffalo’s offense with his selections that included three offensive linemen. The trade to get Watkins is a clear risk for a team with as many holes to plug as the Bills do. Whaley deserves credit for ensuring that he kept his 2014 selections intact while sacrificing his first round pick in 2015.

My feelings on trading up wavered on nearly a week-to-week basis as the draft slowly approached. Making a drastic move to secure a cornerstone talent like Jadeveon Clowney would have been interesting and quite entertaining. However the assets required to make a pick like that outweighed the benefits in many cases. Managing to only give up an additional mid-round selection along with the requisite first round pick was a coup for Whaley. Even if you have concerns over giving up that pick, Whaley still did well in maintaining the rest of his assets along the way.

The lone concern I had in giving up a first round pick in 2015 is that the Bills could be on the outside looking in if a quarterback is needed. This is a worst case scenario situation, of course, but should management or the coaching staff realize that EJ Manuel isn’t capable of carrying the team – or if Manuel’s knees don’t cooperate again – the Bills may be searching for a signal caller next year. With Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston expected to be the most sought after signal callers in 2015, the Bills would be left out of the party. Now, a number of factors would need to come together for the Bills to be in that situation, but it certainly could be a possibility come next May. Continue reading