Bills fans are dealing with plenty of anxiety these days. How will the season play out? Can the Bills end their NFL long 12 year playoff drought? Will there be a new, long term lease deal for Ralph Wilson Stadium? Will it be strong enough to keep the team from being moved? What about the Toronto series? Will the Bills move more games north of the border?
I can’t lessen your anxiety about the season or the lease but I can tell you not to worry about more games being moved to the Rogers Center in the soon to be announced series renewal agreement.
That word came from Bills CEO Russ Brandon during his weekly segment on the WGR Morning Show. Brandon said a story that appeared in The Buffalo News this past Sunday was not accurate. The report stated there would indeed be more regular season games played in Toronto, perhaps as many as eight over five years.
“We’re coming down towards the end of this agreement” Brandon said. “We’ll get down to the nuts and bolts but the one thing I want to be very clear about is that we will not be playing multiple games(in the same season) up north.”
I think I speak for many fans when I say “thank you very much.” I know for many of you, the Toronto series was an unforgiveable move by the Bills but I’ve come to realize that it was just another part of the critical plan for regionalization of the franchise.
It provided new revenue streams in many ways including the fee paid by Rogers Communications for the games and the exposure of the product in the Greater Toronto Area which is home to nearly five million people.
Five years ago, 11% of the fans in the game day crowd at RWS hailed from Southern Ontario. This season the number is at 20% which is a larger percentage than the number of fans coming in from the Rochester area, the first target in regionalization.
“We all know the effects of it(regionalization) in Rochester and such” Brandon told WGR. “But you look at the last five years and what the Toronto initiative has done and when we stood up and talked about this, we talked about bringing our fans from Southern Ontario back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. That has been the biggest positive of this agreement.”
While I have learned to accept the reality of the Toronto series and what it means for the long term existence of the franchise in Western New York, I have no stomach whatsoever for any more games to be shifted north of the border.
That is why I was very glad to hear what Russ told us on the show. If they were to move a second game to Toronto, my first thought would have been “when are they moving three?” and “when does it become four so it would TRULY be a regional franchise?”
If this team is going to contend for a playoff spot, not only this season but for years to come, the last thing they need is to play fewer games in Orchard Park.
So go ahead, renew your contract, get your money from Rogers Communications and tell them thanks but you can’t have any more games. It is still after all, the Buffalo Bills.
Now I can get back to stressing out about the season, the lease, the health of the soon to be 94 year old owner and whether or not the Bills will be here long enough to have a third agreement in the Toronto series.