Photo: Giovanni Variottinelli, Flickr
BY DAN BEGNOCHE
The NFL’s International Committee approved the extension of the Bills Toronto Series in May, which means Buffalo will continue to lose one home game at Ralph Wilson for the next five years.
“The International Committee’s decision to approve the continuation of our games in Toronto is a crucial step in our ongoing efforts to regionalize our franchise,” Buffalo CEO Russ Brandon said in a statement. “As we have stated on many occasions, the regionalization process remains vital to keeping our franchise strong in Western New York.”
The change may not be so much a regionalization effort as it is a capitalization move. According to the Buffalo News, the team will clear a little more than $11 million from the deal, and ticket sales have been insanely high since the start, although efforts have been made to knock them down.
And despite the large turnout — the Rogers Centre averaged more than 50,000 fans per game — the fact remains that Buffalo loses one game per year in an arena that is extremely hard for opposing teams to play in. The volume at Ralph Wilson, which many have said is only rivaled by Seattle’s fans, and the dreaded wind and inclement weather make for a tough road game for any team, made easier now by the domed atmosphere of Rogers. And forget about tailgating at the stadium — outdoor consumption of alcohol is illegal in Ontario besides licensed spots and residential property.
“We really enjoy playing here (Ralph Wilson Stadium) and there is a huge advantage to playing here with the noise, with the crowd, with the momentum that we get and it definitely doesn’t carry over as much when we go to Toronto,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said last season about the crossover. “... It’s part of the deal, it’s part of what we have to do every year. We just roll with it.”
Don’t expect any gripes from players or New York fans to change anything in the immediate future, either. According to the Associated Press, close to 15 percent of the team’s fans are now from across the border in southern Ontario, and season-ticket sales have increased in that area. So with money being the all-powerful decision maker, it looks like Bills’ players are stuck stamping their passports for another half-decade.
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