Author: Timothy Hurysz
If recent reports are true and the Buffalo Bills are in fact planning to remain in Orchard Park with a new open-air stadium, it will be important that more than just a stadium is planned for and built this time around.
One of the many reasons why a downtown stadium has been championed by so many over the years is because of the greater number of entertainment options, such as bars and restaurants, that would be available to fans both before and after games, which is something that the current Orchard Park site fails to provide. Aside from the couple of random bars on Abbott Road and the tailgating experience on gamedays, the area surrounding the current stadium is a bleak and barren landscape that remains empty and unused for most of the year.
But what if this did not have to be the case? What if portions of the sprawling parking lots could be redeveloped in conjunction with the construction of the new stadium to allow for more usage beyond the 8-12 Sundays a year? Several NFL teams have been able to do just that with stadiums located outside of their respective downtowns.
Take for instance Gillette Stadium. Located roughly 28 miles southwest of Downtown Boston, the home of the Patriots is adjacent to “Patriot Place” – a massive 1.3 million square foot complex that contains restaurants, major retailers, a theatre, a four-star hotel, and two healthcare centers. A 20,000 square foot team museum (the Patriots Hall of Fame) along with nature trails and a gameday rail line also occupies the surrounding stadium site.
The Packers’ Lambeau Field, which is located less than 4 miles away from downtown Green Bay, houses the Packers Hall of Fame, the Packers Pro Shop, and the 1919 Kitchen and Tap restaurant inside an adjoining 5 story, 376,000 square foot atrium – which can also be used for weddings, receptions, or other special events and/or social gatherings. A four-star hotel, a brewery, a sports medicine clinic, and a 10-acre public plaza, along with townhomes and apartments, are located in the adjacent 34-acre “Titletown District”, a master planned mixed-use development that was created in attempt to “attract more visitors to the area” and “spur additional regional economic growth.” A new 125,000 square foot expo center is also currently being constructed one block east of the stadium.
Washington’s FedExField in Landover, Maryland is adjacent to the “Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex” which contains athletic fields, a gymnastics facility, an aquatic center, and a learning center. In Kansas City, the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium has a 26,000 square foot museum that is devoted to both the history of the team and the American Football League of the 1960’s (Hall of Honor). The home of the Giants and Jets, MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey neighbors a nearby unaffiliated shopping and entertainment center that includes both a water park and a theme park (American Dream).
The NFL is known as a “copycat league” due to teams copying what other teams have done successfully in an attempt to replicate that same success for themselves. Can the Bills copy various aspects of what other teams have around their stadiums and apply those elements around their (reported) next stadium in Orchard Park? I believe that they can to a certain extent.
I would love to see a Buffalo Bills themed brewery and restaurant adjoined to a museum that highlights the history of the team through a collection of memorabilia and interactive exhibits. I could see that being a massive draw year-round. In addition, maybe an expansion of “Founder’s Plaza” into more of a green space park area that features the current statue of Ralph Wilson along with other statues of Bills greats.
In the wild ideas department: Western New Yorkers love food, so what if the Bills could open some type of food hall and leverage some of the region’s best or most famous restaurants and eateries to open a location there? I also think the addition of an adjacent hotel would be nice for the out-of-town fans on gamedays as well as other visitors to the Orchard Park / Hamburg / Southtowns area year-round.
In the end, I believe that the Buffalo Bills will need to create additional attractions and entertainment options around their next stadium to help better justify an Orchard Park location over a downtown one. Having more things to do, more things to explore and take part in, on both gamedays and throughout the year would make another suburban stadium an easier sell to the fanbase in general.
My hope is that Terry and Kim Pegula will do the right thing and plan for more than just a stadium this time around!
Lead image courtesy Wikimedia.org