A long list of renovation work is nearing completion and just in time as the Bills approach their first home pre-season game, August 23rd against Tampa Bay.
Last week, Joe Buscaglia, Jeremy White and I were given a tour of the stadium and it was my first time out there since the end of the 2013 season. From your entrance into the stadium to your in game experience, you will notice significant changes that should make you very happy.
It starts with the so called "super gates" which are designed to improve the flow of fans entering the stadium. There are fewer gates than in the past but there are more entry points which should allow you to get into the stadium a little quicker.
There are wider walkways between the gates and the lower bowl which should ease the congestion as fans head to their seats. There is also a new, giant entrance into the lower bowl which will allow a greater number of fans to enter at the same time.
One of the more common complaints from fans over the years had to do with the concession stands and the amount of time one can spend in line. I once went to get some food at halftime and didn't return to my seat until midway through the third quarter. The Bills have taken a number of steps to shorten your wait time. There are additional registers at some of the stands and credit card machines have been added, right next to the registers. Thats the way they do things at First Niagara Center and it helps speed up the process of placing your order and moving the line along.
One of my favorite parts of the renovation are the beverage only lines at certain concession stands. If you only want a beer or a soft drink, you don't have to stand in line with everyone who is ordering food. There is a separate line off to one end of the counter where you can order your beverage. Its like having an EZ pass and not having to wait in the longer toll booth lines to physically pay the toll.
While the renovation did not include the widening of the concourses, the measures I just mentioned and the elimination of "portables" or the individual carts in the concourses, will help alleviate the congestion. More point of sales should mean shorter lines and the other steps should shorten the time you spend in the concourse so there will be less of a backup.
In the upper bowl, walls in all four corners of the stadium were blown out to allow easier access to the concession stands.
I think the best part of the tour was seeing the new sports bar which will be situated under the old administration building by the tunnel end of the stadium. There's an 80 foot long bar!!! That will cover a lot of people looking for a beer. Giant garage doors will be rolled up to allow access to the bar which also has concession stands on either side,TV's all over and radiant heat.
Speaking of TV's, more than 700 new televisions have been added to keep you in touch with the game. When all those beers result in a trip to the bathroom, you will be able to hear the broadcast of the game thanks to speakers that have been installed. The number of bathrooms has also been increased from 48 to 60.
When you get inside the stadium, you'll notice the new video boards in the tunnel end as well. One will show exactly what is being seen on the main jumbotron, which by the way has been expanded from 100 feet to 165 feet. The other video board will be used for fantasy stats, out of town scores and other in game information. At halftime, the NFL Red Zone channel will be shown.
The new "front door" to the stadium as the Bills call it, is the team store which will now cover some 8000 square feet as opposed to the current store by the field house which is only 2000 square feet. The store will be open before, during and after the game and will also have TV's for you to watch the game while doing a little shopping. There will be a corner of the store reserved to honor the Bills who are in the Hall of Fame. It will eventually include members of the Wall of Fame too.
CLICK HERE to see the new look!