ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 6: Ralph Wilson makes an appearance on the playing field before the Buffalo Bills NFL game against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 6, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Over a year ago, the Pro Football Hall of Fame approached Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. and asked if he would be interested in making a donation to the Future 50 renovation project. On Saturday, the $2.5 million donation Wilson made was recognized at a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend.
The 10,000-square-foot facility will house documents and photographs, preserving them in a climate-controlled environment for decades to come. Fans and researchers may make appointments to go through the artifacts with the museum staff, as well.
"Ralph Wilson's outstanding contributions to pro football over many decades are legendary," Steve Perry, Hall of Fame president and executive director, said in a news release. "His generous gift has greatly enhanced our ability to preserve the Hall of Fame's rapidly growing collection of historic documents and artifacts."
According to Mr. Wilson's wife, Mary, Perry went to the Wilson's home to directly ask for the donation, and the Bills owner was very interested in the preservation aspect of the project. Wilson was in attendance, and used a wheelchair to maneuver around the Hall of Fame campus. Tim Graham of The Buffalo News noted that Wilson required spotters to stand for the national anthem and "labor through" his speech - though in a tweet to a reader, he said Wilson was "in some ways impressively robust."
"The Pro Football Hall of Fame's historic documents, as have been mentioned will be housed here, and scholars from all over the world will have a chance to see them and go over them," said Wilson during his nine-minute remarks. "If they're great scholars - as I'm sure they must be - I would like an answer to how the Buffalo Bills have gone to four straight Super Bowls without winning one."
Zing, Mr. Wilson.
Graham's column listed above contains the remainder of Wilson's speech, and this link shows the artifacts prominently displayed to honor Wilson. They include two footballs signed by the back-to-back AFL Champions, and items worn by fellow Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Billy Shaw.
BuffaloBills.com also dispatched reporter Hannah Buehler to Canton for the ceremony where she posted this video, which shows a little more of the center.
Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 for his many contributions to the game of professional football. He is the only owner the Bills have had since he founded the team in 1959. He was instrumental in the first pro football television deals, revenue sharing, and the AFL-NFL merger.