On the Friday before Super Bowl XLIX, I held my annual press conference where I addressed many topics concerning the state of the NFL, including the need for a new stadium in Buffalo. Due to the nature of this event, and the number of topics on the agenda, most of my time had to be spent addressing large-market teams. This didn't allow the opportunity to properly explain my stance on Buffalo's stadium situation.
Over the weekend, folks around the league asked me to clarify some of the comments I made about the Bills. Now, a lot of people don't realize this, but I'm from Western New York, so this is a topic that's very important to me. Because of my fondness for the area, I wanted to take the time to further explain myself.
A running theme I've heard over the past several months from Bills fans is that they don't feel that they need a new stadium; that Ralph Wilson Stadium, especially with its recent renovations, is more than adequate to host Bills games for the foreseeable future.
That's simply not true: 200 years ago, if you had asked the U.S. Cavalry whether they wanted tanks, they would have said no. But they had no concept of the tank. Much like those horse-backed warriors, Bills fans simply don't realize how miserable their game day experience truly is. They've yet to see the other side.
Which brings me to my next topic: the concept of the "next generation stadium," and why that's so important to Buffalo. Take a look at Atlanta. The Falcons are building a stadium right now. It has that weird, spinny roof. There's glass everywhere. A huge TV circle that may give everyone in attendance motion sickness. Those are nice things to have. But that's the stadium of today. By the time construction is complete, it will be obsolete. Within weeks after opening, we'll start campaigning to get taxpayer funds to begin the upgrade process.
When Kim and Terry Pegula finally come to the realization that a new stadium is needed in Buffalo, we will be more forward-thinking. We need to have true next-generation technology and attractions from day one to avoid having to start the upgrade cycle so quickly. What does a next-generation facility look like? Just close your eyes and imagine the stadium you never dreamed of. I see a whole stadium that's nothing but suites. The football field itself will be a jumbotron. Teleportation. I'm from Western New York. These are the amenities that Bills fans have been asking for since I was a kid growing up in Western New York.
This is important because, as I stated on Friday, the stadium in Buffalo has to compete with other stadiums. NFL fans now have choices on how and where they watch their games. I'm from Western New York. I'd often watch games at Rich Stadium (what it was called back then, when I lived in Western New York). But times have changed. Games can be watched virtually anywhere using mobile phones or a tablet device. Fans still crave the in-stadium experience, just not necessarily at their local stadium.
Folks from Buffalo may decide that they want to watch the game in one of the many sports lounges in the new Cowboys Stadium. Or in a bar within the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Places with amenities and luxuries that they simply can't find at The Ralph. If we're going to get Bills fans to watch games - not just in Western New York, but at the actual stadium in Buffalo - we can't just promise them a comfy seat with a good view and a competitive team. We need beer nozzles built into every seat so you never have to move. And personal jet packs, so if the person in front of you is blocking your view you can simply elevate your chair. Maybe there will be ferrets. Those are the things that will make this new stadium special, and allow Buffalo to compete with the rest of the league.
Finally, the most common concern I hear from Bills fans is about cost. Yes, stadiums are expensive. The State of New York and the Pegula family will be on the hook for at least $1.5 to $2 billion just to break ground. But over the 15-20 years that stadium will be in operation before we demand a new one be built, that facility will add tens of millions of additional dollars annually to league revenue. You simply can't put a price tag on that type of return.
Once a new stadium is erected, Bills fans will finally have a taste of what it's like to support a real team in a real city. I eagerly look forward to that day. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to further explain myself.