Today marks the second week of SB Nation's Small Market Roundtable, and today the action is taking place at Pride of Detroit, where the subject of the week is stadiums. Detroit is an interesting choice to look at this topic - the city is obviously not a small market, but the Lions were among the lowest earners in terms of 2006 revenue despite having one of the most beautiful facilities in the league in Ford Field. (If you're interested, last week's discussion was in regards to relocation and took place at Big Cat Country).
The Bills are obviously in a bit different situation. Ralph Wilson Stadium was constructed in 1973, making the 34-year-old facility one of the oldest in the league. It has survived through the years via a few renovations, the most major of which occurred in 1999. It was that year that 76 additional dugout suites, seat warmers and cup holders were added to the stadium. Additions were also made in 1984, 1992 and 1994 - it is through these series of improvements that RWS has been able to successfully hold an NFL team for going on four decades. (Source: Stadiums of the NFL)
More changes are coming this off-season. Chris Brown has been keeping us up to date on the changes being made to the scoreboard and sideline banners this off-season. A brand-new, High-Definition scoreboard is replacing the old JumboTron (the major addition in the 1994 renovation) and ribbon scoreboards will be lining each side of the stadium, much like the Buffalo Sabres' HSBC Arena. CB actually provided a photo of the progress in his blog. Information on these changes are scarce, but the press boxes and some of the luxury boxes are being tinkered with as well.
Obviously, as a season ticket holder at The Ralph, I'm excited to see some of the changes being implemented this off-season. A lot of fans worry about the long-term viability of the Bills in this city, and cite the fact that a new stadium needs to be built to keep them here. I heartily disagree - our stadium may not be the nicest facility in the league, but it is constantly being improved and upgraded and is a fine facility in which to view Bills games. The eight home games at RWS will likely sell out this season, mostly due to the presence of two high-profile rookies and the promise of a bright future with the team. The High-Def scoreboard doesn't hurt, however.
My one gripe about the stadium has always been that it's named after a great man, rather than a great company. Back when the field was called Rich Stadium, the team was making extra money off the naming rights from Rich Foods. While the Bills were one of the first teams in NFL history to sell the naming rights to their stadium, the fact that they don't now has bothered me for a while. The team could make an extra $4-5 million at a minimum per year selling these naming rights. Our beloved owner already has a training facility named after him; we need to sell the naming rights to boost our yearly revenue. It's just an idea, but it's one a lot of people believe needs to happen soon. It not only helps our franchise, but other franchises in the league as well - the more money we have already, the less we have to take from the revenue sharing pool on a yearly basis.
Head on over to Pride of Detroit to check out the discussion as it develops in the comments section; feel free to chime in as well.