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.

The plaza would serve as a front yard for the stadium and could not only serve as an area to meet up for fans but for organizing soccer-style fan marches and other gameday activities. It would also serve as a perfect venue for housing a collection of Bills statues that should be commissioned along with the construction of the new stadium.

Terry Pegula and the Sabres started this trend by honoring the French Connection with a statue in the Alumni Plaza at the arena and while Tim Horton’s statue is in an odd location, it would seem as if the team is willing to create additional statues of team legends. With that in mind, I’d love to see Pegula commission a collection of statues that would be unveiled alongside the ribbon cutting of the new stadium.

Statues of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Joe Delamielleure, Marv Levy, The 12th Man, Jack Kemp, Ralph Wilson and even Van Miller would make for ideal candidates and the collection could easily grow depending on how in-depth the team chose to get.

The statues could be spread as wide as each gate for the stadium (similar to the practice at PNC Park) or they could be centralized in a main “Legends Plaza” at the main entry to the stadium. I prefer the latter scenario as it would not only create a more picturesque, one-of-a-kind welcome mat for the stadium, but the collection (depending on the layout) could make a for a very dramatic visual for fans entering the stadium.

Just imagine disembarking from the Metro Rail and seeing the main façade of the stadium come into view with the strategically placed statues dotting the fan plaza. Then, as you get up to the stadium you’re walking amongst larger than life depictions of the most famous players in Bills history.

This would be no minor endeavor as the Super Bowl years yield at least five statues and if you start getting into great moments in team history, this wouldn’t be a bad idea to include. Even though the investment and scope in this project would be large, it would also do quite a bit to add another signature element to any new stadium development for the Bills. Additionally, with all the talk about needing this to do more than just fill up eight times a year, giving people a reason to mosey over to the stadium, snap a few pictures of the statues and then look around the store doesn’t seem like a bad ancillary benefit.

The Pegula’s and their closest confidants have shown a penchant for doing great things with big projects. Look no further than HarborCenter for evidence of that. I hope that they’ve considered this or already have preliminary plans for some sort of Legends Plaza or statue collection for their new stadium, it would be a shame not to include something this cool.

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