TORONTO (WGR 550) -- The Buffalo Bills series in Toronto has been renewed. It's a five-year deal with one regular season home game per year being played outside of Ralph Wilson Stadium. There will also be one exhibition game played in Toronto over the life of the five-year agreement.
The Bills made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, with team president and CEO Russ Brandon, head coach Doug Marrone and executive vice president of strategic planning Mary Owen on hand. They were joined by Rogers Media president Keith Pelley and the executive director of the Bills in Toronto Series, Greg Albrecht.
"Our first step was to regionalize east and to be a part of St. John Fisher and what we were able to do there. But, it was always in our plan to regionalize north and come up to Toronto, and be a part of this great community," Brandon said Tuesday. "We are very fortunate to have a market of this size very close to Buffalo, where people in Buffalo come up and enjoy all the activities here in Toronto. And people in Toronto come down and enjoy our activities.That's a great atmosphere to be a part of."
One of the biggest concerns from fans of the Bills -- and at times even the players on the team themselves -- is that many don't consider the contest played at the Rogers Centre to be a typical home game.
Brandon responded to that as well.
"We're not trying to replicate the experience of Ralph Wilson Stadium," he said. "There's 55 years of great tradition there/ We're trying to build a new tradition here with one game a year, and have all these fans come back and experience one, two, maybe eight games, seven games, down at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And we have seen that over the last five years. We've seen double digit increases in fans coming from southern Ontario. Southern Ontario is now our number-two sister market when it comes to fans in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sundays."
According to the Toronto Sun, the Bills will make significantly less money in this deal as opposed to the original contract. Rogers Communications paid $78 million for what turned out to be seven games, five regular season and one exhibition. The average of $11.14 million a game was more than double what the Bills make for a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Why is the Bills in Toronto series a necessary one to the NFL franchise? Brandon addressed that with the media.
"First and foremost, I'm very excited about the future of Buffalo," he remaked. "But, you cannot deny the fact that we've had corporate decline, we've had population drain over the last 30 years. We have gone from when Mr. Wilson bought this team, the 20th largest market to the 56th largest market, and the NFL has gone the other way.
"My responsibility is to make sure that we keep this franchise on solid footing, and that is how we've survived long-term, is to regionalize our product and our brand. Our focus, we're no different than any other business in Buffalo that tries to expand north of the border."
The Bills have gone 1-4 in contests played at Rogers Centre. They lost to the New York Jets in 2008, Miami in 2009 and Chicago in 2010. The lone victory came over Washington in 2011 and this past season the Bills were blown out by Seattle, 50-17.