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  • Roger Goodell's comments about New Era Stadium have set off speculation about the future of the NFL in the small but loyal Western New York market.
By Conor Orr
June 04, 2019

Will there be a day when professional football is played without the Buffalo Bills?

Roger Goodell’s comments on what he considers necessary stadium upgrades to New Era Field in Western New York have again brought on a tidal wave of alarmists and the subsequent soothing sounds of settle-down corporate jargon. It’s not the first time that Goodell has nudged the league’s second-smallest market in the search for another glistening space station to dock a football team and a summer of Jimmy Buffet concerts, and it won’t be the last.

While the owning Pegula family completes the requisite studies, which is what they should be doing instead of arm-wrestling their season-ticket holders into building some pointless new behemoth, it’s fair to wonder what kind of business strategy it is to poke at one of the league’s most loyal and passionate fanbases. According to attendance records from 2018, the Bills (on average) still managed to outdraw the Buccaneers, Bengals, Rams and Washington in terms of percentage of stadium filled. Their 90.4 percentile mark is well within the range of other NFL legacy franchises in 2018, like the Pittsburgh Steelers (92.8) and the New York Giants (93.3). Anecdotally, this is a fan base that, like Cleveland, has endured years of sub-optimal roster decision making in a less-than-ideal climate, still managing to hold up their end of the bargain when the front office, coaches and players did not. It’s safe to say they would still draw fairly well if the game was held in a Duff’s parking lot.

As tantalizing as it might be to inject another market into the picture, or dangle the Bills to Toronto like the NFL did a few years ago during the sale process, it seems like the league should be protecting what they have there. Buffalo, like Green Bay in a way, is an organic patch of what the league used to be before the profit surge. While no area is completely untouched, outposts like Buffalo provide a glimpse of the old landscape, back when there was a modicum of regional pride and sense of community associated with these things. The more you pave down the green to stack the taller buildings, you realize what you missed in the first place. Here’s hoping it doesn’t go that far.

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Despite any mitigating circumstances, let’s make this the best June 4 we’ve ever had.

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