The issue of a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills has come back into the news cycle recently, with public comments from team president Russ Brandon informing fans that plans for a new building were on the back burner. If 2016 mirrors 2015 in the national media, it might force Kim and Terry Pegula's hand on building a new stadium sooner rather than later.
The stadium situation is in limbo. Prior to the death of team founder Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the Bills signed a ten-year, band-aid lease to stay in their aging stadium. Mostly cosmetic work was completed at the time, but it was not the massive retrofit that could keep the team in the stadium for decades to come. New York State, Erie County, and the Bills formed a New Stadium Working Group to lay the groundwork for a new stadium by sizing up locations and giving all stakeholders a voice in the process.
By the time the Pegulas purchased the team, that was about all the group could accomplish. As BuffaloBills.com pointed out on Friday, the Pegulas make that group's work less urgent, because they aren't interested in moving the team.
Essentially, the Pegulas and the Bills can build a new stadium wherever and whenever they want. They'll have the money to do it, and as the only pro football team in New York, the state government won't want to lose the income tax revenue (even if other money generated by a NFL team is a wash).
As Bills fans' behavior continues to make national headlines for all the wrong reasons, that timeline might be moved up; the rationale holds that that behavior can be ameliorated by moving the stadium to a more controlled, downtown location.
In 2015, several Bills fans made national news with their crazed behavior inside, but mostly outside, the stadium. It was spread to the masses, mostly via Deadspin, giving all Bills fans (and especially the charitable endeavor behind #BillsMafia) a black eye. There were all those tables being destroyed by bodies of flying tailgaters, which is mostly harmless. There was the guy who set himself on fire, which caught the attention of the County Executive. The couple who explored each other in the parking lot in plain view of camera phones was a little more worrisome. Bills fans were named "drunkest in the NFL" not once, but twice, by different measures.
This is the national narrative of the scene in and around the Bills on game day: a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah of debauchery. The image-conscious owners of the Bills may look at this and say it needs to change, even if Bills fans everywhere are extolling the virtues of tailgating and the camaraderie it showcases (which remains true, despite the best efforts of the notorious few). One way to do that is to build the new stadium in a place where off-site lots aren't as prevalent, limiting the areas where large groups can congregate and fuel this type of behavior.
Will they lose some fans? Sure. Will other, different fans be there to take their place? Probably. There is a large segment of the population that won't go to Bills games now because of poor fan behavior. A new downtown stadium could change not only the zip code, but the clientele in attendance at the game. It would also change the national narrative. If you don't think the owners care how their team and fans are viewed, you're burying your head in the sand.