Buffalo Bills RALPH WILSON STADIUM :: Opened 1973 :: Capacity 73,967
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"Buffalo enjoys a 'work hard, party hard' atmosphere'" "Fans have no trouble ... putting their throat and body on the line, shouting out their lungs, bare-chested, in the freezing cold." "The more it snows, the louder it gets." But there is a second edge to the crowd's sword. "Bills fans are passionate, but there's often a concern about what the drunk bozo next to you is going to do." "People are mostly civil, but we have our share of idiots who think it's cool to assault an opposing fan, although security does a good job of taking care of those situations." While some express concern that "my 10-year-old had a whole new vocabulary before kickoff," others have no desire to sterilize an arena where even "old women scream 'Kill 'em!' at the top of their lungs at 10 below." "I like that it's not a corporate atmosphere." "The average Bills fan ... is a salt-of-the-earth kind who anyone would want to have as a neighbor." "It sounds corny, but it really is a community thing."
9 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (20 oz.)
Beer (16 oz.)
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"The Bills sell pretty cheap food and beverages," but some caution fans to "cook their own in the parking lot beforehand; you'll be a lot happier and the food might actually be more than lukewarm." Still, some find "the roast beef on weck sandwich" from the Red Osier "simply delicious," and the Sahlen's hot dog "the best." Others claim "there is a great vendor for fried dough and kettle corn." And though not everyone can enjoy how "comfortable and warm" the Jim Kelly and Paul Maguire clubs can be, most can agree on the value of Labbatt's Blue 32 oz. big beer. "'Nuff said."
6 out of 10
Situated "about 20 minutes" outside of the city, the stadium doesn't offer much in the way of public transit, "so it's all cars." With "three highways connect[ing] Buffalo to Orchard Park," and "multiple roads leading in and out," traffic to the game "gets diffused." "Traffic does not get heavy until right before you reach the stadium parking lots." Parking is never a problem in either the "decently sized" stadium lot or in the "mini parking lots" the "homes surrounding the stadium set up," where "most people pay $5-$10 to park on someone's lawn." "The commute home is a whole different story. Roads get closed, detours are put in place and the police come out in masses." "A 20-minute drive can take an hour-and-a-half." "The flow out depends on whether or not the Bills win; if they do, many people stay and party, so it's easy to get out."
5 out of 10
"Some people park their campers and RVs as early as Friday for a Sunday early afternoon game" ... "and leave the day after the game." For many, a tailgate that some estimate draws "twice as many people in the lots as the stadium," is "one of the top 50 things you have to do before you die." "There's nothing better than firing up the grill at the crack of dawn for some sausages and eggs, then having a pregame meal and steaks post-game." "Everything from hot dogs to T-bones to the occasional lobster" grace the game-day menu, "and you can't forget the ribs, shrimp and fried turkey!" Of course, that's in addition to the "Polish and Italian sausage," "chicken wings," "chili" and "huge chunks of meat from unknown origin" being cooked "over giant flames rising from giant barrels." With large lots surrounding the stadium, the "unbelievable" scene spreads in a "360-degree circle around the facility." Touch football games can be found "in every aisle," and special tailgate vehicles with built-in grills, sound systems and hot tubs [on flatbed trailers]" make the rounds. The mayhem that is the Buffalo pregame scene may best be captured by the "infamous Pinto tailgate," where food is cooked "on the hood" of an old Pinto next to a portable wet bar, where shots are poured into a bowling ball for passers-by. "After you drink, you need to blow a [yodeling] horn and drop the ball. If the ball doesn't land with the hole up, you have to drink a penalty shot ..." You get the idea. For those looking to escape the zaniness -- and elements -- the Bills host "football skills games for little kids" at their practice fieldhouse, but most huddle around a parking lot filled with "so many bonfires and team flags, it reminds one of an old Army troop gathering before an epic battle."
"Football should not be played in an inviting place; it should scare you to be there. And when football is not being played at the Ralph, it looks like the kind of place where people should be fighting in a ring of death." A "Spartan," "concrete" exterior lends credence to that view, as do the metal "bleacher seats in the end zone" and a field that invites "winds to come swirling in from all angles" because it "is actually lower than the ground elevation." While few treasure the thought of waiting "20 minutes to go to the bathroom" in "trough urinals," most embrace the notion that "football is a dirty and blue-collar sport, and the Ralph reflects that; you come out and survive the weather just like the players do." That also means surviving seats that are "too small" with "no leg room," that also means a stadium sporting a "traditional football configuration" which "traps noise" and doesn't have "a bad seat in the house." For its part, the team does "a great job" "constantly making various upgrades to the stadium" "since taxpayers won't pay for a new one." This season that includes a new high-definition Jumbotron and "a video ribbon" around the lower bowl of the stadium. For many, though, those upgrades only detract from what they really want: "The only attraction I'm looking for is a good team."
6 out of 10
"The surroundings almost make you think you are going to a high school football game on steroids." A "calm," "rural," "tree-filled" town, Orchard Park has that "small, hometown feeling of mom-and-pop type diners and bars." "It's organized and well-kept," with plenty of "wide open spaces." "There are some small convenience stores and supermarkets to pick-up tailgating gear," but "it is nearly all residential." "There's a bit more of a relaxed feeling to the area, which makes the stadium seem more like it is part of the community." The "very friendly atmosphere" does not hide the fact, for some, that Ralph Wilson Stadium "is out in the middle of nowhere." But many feel the Bills' longtime home offers "a nice change from big-city stadiums."
3 out of 10
"It isn't a palace by any means, but it is a very serviceable stadium in a nice little neighborhood." And therein lies the charm of the Ralph. The comforts are few and the quality of football is often even more raw. But in today's luxury-box filled world, where the elements are to be avoided, more than embraced, Buffalo's home is a legitimate throwback. And while Bills fans would, in all likelihood, enjoy the wider seats and food concourses of a new facility, that isn't their reality, and they're OK with that. So long as a Bills game is in the offing, what's to complain about? Getting together with friends new and old to eat without abandon and cheer on a team the city's fans live and die with -- with only eight opportunities a season, that's well worth a few feet of snow and six layers of clothing.
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