By Matt Sabuda:
In the next round of Bills lease negotiations, we can expect that some expansion or enhancement of premium seating will be highlighted. Why not create premium seating sections that are aimed at a uniquely Buffalo demand segment?
Bleacher Report ranked Buffalo 4th among all NFL cities for tailgating. Even Food and Wine Magazine has recognized Buffalo as one of “America’s Best Tailgating Cities.” Why not bring the party into the game? Bringing Buffalo’s tailgating tradition into the stadium would build on an already unique game day atmosphere.
Cities with far less event oriented tailgate traditions than Buffalo have already begun adding what are known as ‘party decks’ into their stadiums. Take for example, Chicago. Private building owners next to Wrigley Field have had party decks on their rooftops for years, allowing fans to eat great food, drink great beer, and of course watch the Cubs lose. The Cubs finally have come around to the concept officially and are adding the ‘Budweiser Party Deck’ within Wrigley Field scheduled to open in time for the 2012 season.
With Ralph Wilson Stadium having both an abundance of interior rooftops and space, it would make sense for the Bills to consider creating the largest series of party decks in professional sports. With Buffalo’s tailgating popularity and tradition, these types of venues would undoubtedly represent an in demand new revenue source for the team. By selling corporate sponsorships to these party decks, along with reasonably priced passes to ticket holders for entry, the Bills could create a whole new segment of premium seating that would have a uniquely Buffalo flavor. It also doesn’t hurt that premium seating revenue enhances the team’s long term viability.
In New Orleans, Mardi Gras organizers would never tell people to watch the parade from inside Bourbon Street buildings. Why tell fans to leave the party at the stadium gates?
During upcoming construction the team could carve out corners in the upper and lower bowls, reducing the oft mentioned high capacity, while adding this unique amenity. The decks could feature retrofitted Anchor Bar wing grills, Dinosaur barbecue pits and maybe some craft Buffalo brewery stations all within a monitored, secure area. Buffalo has a chance to show off to the NFL world that being at a game in Western New York is an event like no other.
As part of an effort to protect the team’s future in Buffalo going forward, decision makers need to embrace concepts that reflect the unique demand and tradition in the Western New York market. Buffalo has a definitive place in the league that is nothing like the quiet Metlife Stadium where Bart Scott criticized fans for being on their iPads during games. The addition of party decks would embrace the rabid passion that Buffalo has for football and a great event atmosphere.
The sooner that the Bills and Erie County recognize and include bold stadium renovations that embrace Buffalo’s place among the most festive NFL cities, the better the team will be in the long run. Hopefully fans will let the team and decision makers know how they feel with the same passion they bring to game day Sundays.
Follow Matt on twitter @fffmatt