Like all facilities in New York State, Ralph Wilson Stadium cannot sell beer before Noon on Sundays. The Buffalo Bills are pushing for legislation that would allow an "outdoor athletic stadium located in the County of Erie with at least 60,000 fixed seats" to sell alcohol at 11 AM on Sundays, per The Buffalo News.
The idea has merit. Stadium parking lots are swimming in beer on Sundays by
dawn 11 in the morning, and the only place that can't serve is inside. Serving beer inside the stadium would create a more controlled environment for the consumption of alcohol prior to kickoff, according to the bill's sponsor.
"The general purpose is to restore some of the family environment to the stadium and downgrade a little bit of the emphasis on tailgating," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who sponsored the bill at the request of the team.
It's not that it would eliminate the tailgating option for fans intent on drinking to excess, but rather provide an alternative for people to enjoy a beer or two before the game without being surrounded by that element in the parking lot.
Two years ago, similar legislation failed to pass due to concerns about other local businesses wanting the same option. It is not a coincidence that this legislation is being re-examined when the renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium are ongoing. An expanded footprint inside the gates and enlarged concourses mean more places to congregate with friends, and new food choices inside the stadium concessions could be an enticement to some fans to come inside instead of hanging back in the parking lot - especially if they can have a beer at the same time. Adding interactive elements inside the stadium gates during this time frame will also bring more folks inside.
This is another step in a very pointed effort to modernize, to make Ralph Wilson Stadium a pre-game destination, to increase the value of their team, and to attempt to curb the negative publicity associated with tailgating. In order to expand their ticket-buying base, they need to offer new and better options to the status quo, and this offseason has shown the start of that process.