Buffalo Bills at the Carrier Dome: Dream or Reality?
As the Bills organization looks to grow its fan base — and generate more revenue from ticket sales — would playing one or more games at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse really be an option? A timeline of events...
- Background information: Since 2002, individual teams have been allowed to negotiate their own deals to play one another during the preseason. The league allows individual teams to provide input into desired match-ups (and determines the match-ups for any games that are not individually negotiated); however, the league sets all game dates and times ("National Football League Preseason," Wikipedia)
January 5, 2013: "Offbeat New Year's Wish List for the Buffalo Bills: No. 8 The Bills and Jets scrimmage in the Carrier Dome"
"Scrimmage, preseason game, whatever. The Bills hold training camp on the eastern edge of Rochester. The Jets are in Cortland. Halfway between those two spots (roughly) is a football stadium with a 49,000-plus capacity. Sell tickets for $10 and $20. Preseason football sucks. One way to make it more interesting is by playing with venue location and giving the game an engaging narrative: 'Battle for Upstate' or just 'Rex Ryan Talks Loudly' " (Bleacher Report).
- January 7, 2013: Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon (a Syracuse, NY native) announces the hiring of Syracuse University's Doug Marrone as the 16th head coach in Bills franchise history (NFL.com).
- January 16, 2013: The Bills announce the hires of 10 assistant coaches, including four from Syracuse University (ESPN.com).
November 13, 2013: “The 2013 Buffalo Bills schedule features six games, three of which are divisional games in the AFC East, against opponents that are coming off extra rest via a Thursday night game or a bye week. Via his weekly radio appearance on WGR radio in Buffalo, Bills CEO Russ Brandon says the Bills have formally addressed the issue with the National Football League" — Brent Axe (Syracuse.com).
- Background information: The Bills Toronto Series is a deal consisting of a series of games featuring the Bills played at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The series — conceived by Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Ted Rogers of Rogers Communications and Larry Tenenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment — began in the 2008 season and expired in 2012. The series included the first regular-season NFL game played in Canada. The contract was renewed on January 29, 2013; the five-year extension features one regular-season Bills "home" game per year plus a pre-season game in 2015 ("Bills Toronto Series," Wikipedia).
- November 26, 2013: “The Bills still have four years remaining on their deal to play in Canada, and there is no expectation inside the organization they are going to try to break the deal. It is no secret that the Buffalo Bills have one of the easiest final five games in the NFL. This has given fans a glimmer of hope that the 13-year playoff drought could end this season. Unfortunately, four of the final five games are away from Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the team has struggled on the road in 2013, going 1-4” (The Bleacher Report).
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz: The check the Bills receive for the Toronto game is equal to the money made at two Bills games in Orchard Park. And that's what this Bills in Toronto debacle is all about (via Twitter/The Citizen).
Many Buffalo fans refuse to attend Bills games in Toronto. Fan objections include the perception that Toronto is a neutral site, the lack of energy in the Rogers Centre and the poor turf. Additionally, a 2012 poll by Sun Media found that the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are more popular than the Bills in Toronto ("Bills Toronto Series," Wikipedia).
- December 1, 2013: "Stat of the Game II — Attendance: The failed experiment that is the Bills in Toronto series was an embarrassment yet again Sunday. The announced attendance? 38,969. [The smallest crowd in series history.] To put that in perspective, Saturday's Syracuse-Boston College game at the Carrier Dome drew a crowd of more than 37,000" (The Citizen). [Note: the game was televised in the local central and western New York markets — despite the NFL's blackout rules.]
December 2, 2013: "Each year the Bills play in Toronto, there are a decent amount of fans rooting for their opponent (or some other NFL team). If you compare the atmosphere at a Bills game in Orchard Park and the annual Toronto game, it's like day and night. The Orchard Park crowd is firmly behind the Bills. The Toronto crowd? Their biggest cheers of the game — a game the Bills were leading early and lost in overtime — came for an idiot who ran onto the field. Heck, boos rained down when calls went against the Falcons!" (The Citizen). Home-field advantage? Not so much.
- December 4, 2013: “Everything that we do after the season is going to be evaluated, OK?” — Head Coach Doug Marrone (The Buffalo News).
- December 5, 2013: Bills fans discuss the failure of the Toronto series at the Rogers Center on official Bills fan message boards:
January 3, 2014: The Bills finish the season 6-10 overall, landing on that record for the third straight season. They finish 3-3 in the AFC East, the first time they've reached .500 in the division since 2007. A bit of a home/away dichotomy developed: the Bills were 4-3 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but were just 2-7 in road contests (SB Nation).
- "The future of the Bills really depends on how well the team is able to become a regional franchise. The Bills having a presence in Canada is very important. ... The Bills should give some thought to playing a preseason game at the Carrier Dome and maybe playing two games in Toronto... . If the Bills fail in making [the team] a regional franchise, the Buffalo Bills may have no choice but move to a city like Los Angeles, California" (Football and Futbol).
- January 2014: Talk on official Bills fan boards encourages the Bills to change its name to the "New York Bills" in reference to the state-wide fan base.
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