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Buffalo Bills, St. John Fisher Agree To New Training Camp Deal

Photo by Jay Ferris.
Photo by Jay Ferris.

The Buffalo Bills and St. John Fisher College today announced the signing of a brand new deal that will keep Bills training camp at the Rochester-area facility for years to come. News that the deal was close was first reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Wednesday. The deal is for at least five years.

There were big changes at Bills camp this past summer, and it had little to do with the NFL lockout. During the previous year, Fisher installed a new all-weather track on the site previously occupied by Bills' grass practice fields. While the addition of a bleacher area helped with fan seating and protection from the sun, the new track reduced the number of grass fields from two to one. The Bills opted to split the area into two 50-yard practice fields, but were not happy with the arrangement. The team also used the artificial turf field at Growney Stadium, but the team prefers the grass fields, citing injury concerns.

As part of the new deal, brokered by team president Russ Brandon - a Fisher graduate - the college will be adding a new practice field to provide the team with two grass fields once again. It will require the removal of four tennis courts directly adjacent to the Student Life Center, which houses the Bills' training facilities. | See the SJF Campus Map

"If they can sign a deal... there might be some construction taking place," Fisher athletic director Bob Ward told the D&C Tuesday.

Ward has already informed Fisher's tennis players and coaches that the college planned to remove the courts to make room for another field for the Bills, according to tennis team co-captain Chris Maley.

Current Fisher Facility via Google Maps

The proposed site for the new field

Not only will the tennis courts need to be relocated, the new deal could mean the relocation of the facilities building seen to the right of the "proposed site" box in the second photo. Trees could also be coming down in the wooded area behind. One thing is certain: the training camp experience will look different for the second consecutive year next July.

The Bills have been coming to St. John Fisher since 2000 after leaving their longest-tenured training camp facility at SUNY Fredonia, where they were hosted from 1981 until 1999. This new deal means Fisher will likely supplant Fredonia as the longest-tenured home of Bills training camp. The move was part of the team's effort to regionalize in order to make the team more viable in Western New York over the long haul.

"Rochester has proven to be a great asset to us," said Brandon in an interview with WGR 550 this June. "The support is immense."

Brandon estimated in the interview that the Bills get 15 percent of their total revenue from Rochester. This ensures Buffalo's access to the region will continue for many years to come.

“We are excited to have come to an agreement to continue our Training Camp at St. John Fisher College,” said Brandon in the team's official press release. “We believe Fisher offers us the best place to prepare our football team, continue our regional business initiatives and to serve our great fans. We would like to thank President Bain, the Fisher Staff and the Board of Directors for their continued commitment to host the Bills into the future.”

“Having this new agreement that keeps our Training Camp at St. John Fisher College is tremendous,” said Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. “Everyone at the school does such a great job during our time there, and it’s a first-class operation all the way. I talk to a number of players around the league and I’m thoroughly convinced that we have one of the best, if not the best, training camp in the NFL.”