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.
The concourse rendering only shows a single portion of the stadium but does show a drastic change from the poorly lit, dank concourses that funnel fans to their seats. While the construction of the stadium doesn’t allow for too much wiggle room here, these certainly look like a marked improvement. The same goes for the upgrades to the gates. If the entire outer ring of the stadium gets this update it will make the outside of the aging stadium look much better than it does now with a simple chain link fence and old bunker-like gate structures.
If all of the gates aren’t part of the plans that would be a massive miss and let down when taking the entire building into consideration.
These are obvious fixes as the concourses are horribly dated and to say they don’t compare to modern stadiums is a massive understatement. Working this into the plans was almost a necessity when all things are considered. Adding the videoboards and Welcome Plaza shows a more progressive move.
Looking at nearly every NFL stadium they will have one thing in common: video scoreboards that every fan can see. This is not the case across the league nor at The Ralph. While I’d be more impressed if they added one large video board in the east end, the pair of video boards will significantly improve the fan experience for those who have sat below or out of sight of the scoreboard since the stadium has been built.
Perhaps going with the twin boards is more of a cost cutting move than if a full scoreboard was to be put in. That is totally understandable when you consider how big of an investment the current score and ribbon board system was for the team back in 2007.
For me, the most impressive change is the most visible. The addition of a true Welcome Plaza at the west end of the stadium is an interesting and impressive addition. While the age of the stadium cannot be changed, nor can many of the shortcomings regarding suites and club seating, this is something that can stimulate what is otherwise a utilitarian relic that simply holds 70,000 and eight football games a year.
Not only does the Welcome Plaza add a true front door to the stadium, it adds a modern upgrade to a building that, for lack of a better term, has zero curb appeal. Of course, fans will need to wait until 2014 at the very least before they see the real changes come into effect. Still, the plaza is a nice touch and looks great.
Now we get to wait while the construction moves along over the next three seasons. Hopefully by the time the plaza is fully functioning for the 2015 season a concrete plan is in place for a new stadium for the Bills.