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

Floating ideas on a future site for the Bills stadium

There’s been a whole lot of talk about where the Bills will reside once their newest lease expires in 10 years (or seven depending on what course of action they take).

While the current renovations will serve as little more than a soggy band-aid for the aging stadium, the lease is designed to provide the time necessary to get a new stadium designed, approved and built in Western New York. Of course seven to ten years probably isn’t long enough around these parts.

Although a shiny new stadium built on the Outer Harbor is probably the first choice for many new stadium advocates, I think that it’s more likely that Bass Pro will build a floating supercenter to support the new signature Peace Bridge span before a football stadium gets constructed on the Outer Harbor. Too many opponents with plans for parks, public access and other causes which simply don’t align with a billion dollar project such as that.

Bear in mind that a number of stadiums have been built in the past 10-20 years for relatively acceptable costs and there’s no reason to think that the new Bills stadium (open or with a roof) couldn’t be completed without eclipsing the billion dollar plateau.

Instead, I think there are a few more feasible locations throughout the city that would not only appease those who staunchly disagree with placing the stadium on the water but also the parties who hope to see the stadium built in the city limits. I’ll go in order of most ridiculous and unrealistic and work my way down to the plan I like best  (forgive the sloppy photo work). Continue reading

Stadium renovations are a win

The plans for the renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium are officially public and they look pretty darn good. These renovations are part of the new lease agreement and this should serve as the official bridge that will carry the Bills from The Ralph to a new stadium.

Any new stadium talks are in the very early stages and can’t be taken all the seriously at this point since the main group promoting their plan remains without any backing or support from any outside entity. While that stadium plan is certainly ambitious and should be pursued, it seems like quite a longshot at this point in time.

Based on how the new lease was constructed and some of the comments made by those involved in this process (both with the County and Bills) it would appear that a new stadium is indeed part of the long-term plans for the franchise. For the time being, making sure that The Ralph is habitable for fans is key. Call it putting lipstick on a pig or a band-aid for a gunshot wound, but these renovations are not only necessary and they look good.

The two most visible additions will be the Welcome Plaza on the west end of the stadium and the addition of two videoboards on the east end of the stadium. Additional renovations to the concourses and gates also appear to be part of the gameplan. Continue reading

Plans floated for waterfront stadium

Don’t get too excited about the pretty picture of the proposed stadium project for the Outer Harbor. Not only is this in the very early stages but the proposal seems to be a pie-in-the-sky plan that probably isn’t a great fit for Western New York.

There are plenty of bits and pieces about this idea that will hopefully become part of an actual new build, but as a project without much backing – and one the Russ Brandon said won’t happen – it is just a pretty picture for now.

To recap the details from The Buffalo News article: The 72,000 seat stadium would be the centerpiece of a $1.4 billion project that would have the stadium serve as a convention center along with a hotel, retail and parking for somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 cars. That was billion, with a B.

Considering the scope of the project, it doesn’t seem all that bad. It puts the stadium downtown along the water, something that fans have been clamoring for a while. In addition, it provides a brand-new home for a team that has been rumored to have one foot out the door due to a number of circumstances – namely their aging relic of a stadium.

However, a 72,000 seat stadium is actually on the high-end of capacities when compared to a number of stadiums around the league and the price tag would most certainly require PSLs and significantly higher tickets costs. The latter two points being widely panned as deal breakers for a financially limited region. Of course, any sort of investment in a new stadium is far more attractive and beneficial (long-term) than wasting another $200 million on upgrades to the Ralph. Continue reading