Renovating The Ralph: The Kick Is Good’s Plan for Renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium

Mike Sullivan January 17, 2013 19
Renovating The Ralph: The Kick Is Good’s Plan for Renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium

On December 21st, 2012 the Buffalo Bills finalized a new 10 year lease with Erie County and NY State.

One major component of the new lease agreement was a $130 Million fund for “Stadium Renovations”.

With CEO/President Russ Brandon recently canvasing the globe in an effort to re-establish the franchise as a winning NFL Football Team, I thought I’d do him a solid favor and spend that $130 million for him.

So with the help of my miniature Ralph Wilson stadium from the Danbury Mint, $150 worth of stuff from Niagara Hobby Shop, and about 20+ hours of my Christmas Vacation, I created my plan to:

Renovate the Ralph”

My goal is to turn this:

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Into this:
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A world class facility that is on-par with the best stadiums in the country while maintaining the heritage and character of the stadium we love.

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I’ve travelled to my fair share of NFL, MLB, MLB-Spring Training, Horse Racing, Tennis and NASCAR stadiums and they’ve all helped me realize that Ralph Wilson Stadium has atmosphere, tailgating, and sight lines like nowhere else. I won’t be touching those areas one single bit.

I’ve also seen some things at other stadiums that I’ve found incredibly cool and that I would love to see brought to Orchard Park.

I’ve focused the upgrade efforts in 7 areas

  • New glass atrium
  • Increased green space
  • Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame
  • Wider 300 level concourses
  • New grass playing field
  • Free WiFi
  • Safe harbor for the Sheldon Cemetery

Idea: Climate Controlled Glass Atrium

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Inspiration: 

Lambeau Field:

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1024px-LambeauFieldAtriumInside

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Cowboys Stadium:

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First Niagara Center:

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Why this makes sense for the Buffalo Bills:

It’s no secret that the concourses at the Ralph are tight. I’ve got plans for those too, but currently at the Ralph there is limited space for meeting areas or additional concessions. The new climate controlled glass atrium will not only become the focal gateway for “the new” Ralph Wilson Stadium, but it will feature wide concourses, ample meeting space, an increased variety of concessions, and plenty of Televisions to watch the Bills game or any other NFL game currently on air. Whether it’s hot or cold outside, the new glass atrium will be comfortable inside and will become the new face of the stadium.

Idea: Green Space

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The first thing you’ll notice in my renovation plan is that there is a lot of green. Even though there is lots of additional green, almost all parking/tailgate lots will remain unchanged. I cut the drive 5 lot in half, moved the limo lot and put grass in front of the field house, but all other stadium lots remain unchanged.

Inspiration: Belmont Park, US Tennis Center

Belmont Park

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The US Tennis Center in Flushing, NY (Home of the US Tennis Open)

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Why this makes sense for the Buffalo Bills:

Belmont Park and the US Tennis Center  both have main grandstands where you can go to watch the events live, but they also both have huge areas outside of the main grandstands with grass, trees, TVs, and ample food & beverage options. I know this because I’ve given each an ample amount of my money.

Also, I went to the Bills game in Dallas last season, one of the big things that I noticed is during the pre-game they had as many people inside the gates enjoying the festivities as as there was in the parking lot. There were cheerleaders, bands, and again plentiful food and beverage for sale. There was actually more electricity and atmosphere from the Cowboys fans during the pregame than there was during the actual game itself. (And everyone was incredibly well behaved before and after the game.)

Plus this new space could allow the Bills to sell another 5,000 to 7,000 “Grounds Passes” that wouldn’t get you a seat to the game, but would allow you to come onto the grounds and watch the game from in and around the stadium. Dallas already does something very similar and because these tickets are  non-traditional ticket revenue (ala Club Seats) I would venture that this revenue wouldn’t have to be shared with the other 31 teams.

The Bills have a solid start to this concept with the food truck area they’ve added behind the scoreboard,

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but they could truly take it to the next level of fan enjoyment and beyond. From my experience with Bills Training Camp and Preseason Kids Day, the Bills really know how to create an entertaining space. Now it’s time to formalize this and take this and the entire fan experience up a notch.

 

Idea: Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame

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Inspiration: Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Stadium

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Why this makes sense for the Buffalo Bills:

Not only is a team Hall of Fame a fantastic way to honor the Buffalo Bills rich 53 year history, but it would also turn Ralph Wilson stadium into a 12 months/year destination. The new Bills Hall of Fame would honor all the greats:

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and would be fully interactive.

In addition to the regular exhibits the Bills Hall of Fame would also host a yearly enshrinement event where Bills Hall of Fame members, new and old, would gather for a fun and exciting ceremony to welcome its newest members.

The History of the Buffalo Bills Exhibit at the Buffalo Historical Museum in 2010 was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Here are just some of my pics from that awesome limited time exhibit:

Having the ability to visit and attend events at this new museum would be a great new source of revenue for the team and a great year round attraction for fans of the Bills in Western New York and around the world.

And some day, it will be a great place for the team to display its Lombardi.

My kids, the Lombardi Trophy and Me at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton after Ralph and Bruce's induction in 2009.

My kids, the Lombardi Trophy and Me at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton after Ralph and Bruce’s induction in 2009.

Idea: Wider 300 Level Concourses

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Current Configuration:

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The 300 level concourses at the Ralph are tight. At halftime, large numbers of people moving through the concourses combined with the long lines at the limited concession stands causes big congestion problems. I love my fellow Bills fans, but not enough to rub up against them for 12 straight minutes as I try to navigate the concourse. And getting from one end of the 300 level to the other with two full beers in your hand is more challenging than a Japanese game show.But all is not lost. The stadiums current configuration would allow for some structural changes to be made to significantly widen the concourses and expand the amount and the variety of the 300 level’s concession offerings. In the widened configuration, you could easily get to the bathrooms or to the new atrium AND make your way back to your seat all during the 12 minute halftime.

 

Idea: Free WiFi throughout the stadium

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Inspiration: Currently 8 other NFL stadiums have free wifi throughout.

Why this makes sense for the Buffalo Bills:

Cell reception inside of Ralph stadium is atrocious. My theory is that it has something to do with the large number of people concentrated in one place all trying to hit the same cell tower. This makes it incredibly hard to tweet or stay on top of my fantasy team when I’m in the stadium. Do you know how many incredibly witty things I could have posted to twitter over the last two years if I had a better signal in the stadium? The answer is many. In 2013, free stadium WiFi has become a must have for the optimal fan experience. We need it, NOW.

 

Idea: Grass Playing Field

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Inspiration:

Grass fields in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago

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Football was meant to be played outside on a grass field. RG3’s exploding knee aside, studies show that grass playing fields cause less injuries and are preferred by players. Cold weather cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh maintain beautiful grass fields. I didn’t mention Chicago because they have a grass field and it is horrible. Let’s use a portion of the upgrade money not just on the fans but in helping to improve the product on the field. (And after we put in the grass field, let’s make sure we do the opposite of what Chicago is doing)

Idea: Better Protect Sheldon Family Cemetery

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Why this makes sense for the Buffalo Bills:

Did you know that there is a cemetery in the Drive 5 parking lot of Ralph Wilson Stadium?

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Yep, a real cemetery with real headstones and everything.

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The new additional green space gives the team an opportunity to neatly and safely tuck this historical family cemetery back in an area where it would see minimal disruption. The Bills need all the luck they can get, so let’s do everything we can to ensure that no one in the spirit world has any reasons to root against us.

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I’m looking forward to this exciting new chapter in the Bills history. A new coach and a new renovated stadium–both filled with new ideas to make this team…our team…a winner! Go Bills!

 

Additional pics:

Contact me at my twitter or msullivan.buffalo at gmail.com

19 Comments »

  1. Jazzz January 15, 2013 at 8:12 am -

    Some nice idea, but…where exactly are you moving all the lost parking to????

  2. admin January 15, 2013 at 11:40 am -

    Only half of drive 5, the limo lot and the area right in front of the field house was moved. All other parking is untouched. Parking and tailgating are important. Also, there is a team parking lot and very tiny team entrance door behind the new Hall of Fame.

  3. AAASSS January 15, 2013 at 11:48 am -

    How does your blue glass structure deal with the weight of snow accumulation?

  4. admin January 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm -

    It’s heated and has a slight angle to it. No stone unturned.

  5. JP January 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm -

    Why place the grand entrance on the Abbott side of the stadium and not the Southwestern Blvd side?

  6. admin January 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm -

    I thought about that. I originally had it there, but keeping it with the field house and hall of fame created more of a focal entry/section. Heck, let’s just build two atriums!!!

  7. JJ January 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm -

    this is awesome!

  8. Buffalo Roam'er January 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm -

    Love the effort, time, thought and money you put into this project but you need to answer Jazzz’s question about parking. I like the concept but taking away all that parking wouldn’t make sense. Decrease the grassy area from the outer parameter and bring the parking in closer to the stadium. Thanks!

  9. seasontix January 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm -

    Where are the administration building and the parking lot for the TV trucks in your design?

    Speaking of parking … since the team decided to institute festival-style slotting in the stadium lots, 2/3 never fill up anymore anyway. We can see the tumbleweeds rolling through those wide-open expanses from our (full) private lot.

  10. The Kick Is Good January 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm -

    All that parking can go behind the Hall of Fame building.

  11. Mitch Stenger January 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm -

    We need to get a hold of Russ Brandon’s email address (even if he does take credit for your Awe Some ideas!)
    MMS

  12. Weso1378 January 16, 2013 at 7:49 am -

    Season ticket holder for 30 years. Never new there was a cemetery on sight. The bills curse is now explained!

  13. Andrew January 16, 2013 at 10:02 am -

    Really well done article, I appreciate the time this took. My idea for the lost parking would simply be a parking garage that would have third story walkways into the stadium. If the garages were city owned, it wouldn’t even cut into the team’s budget, technically speaking.

  14. kmoney January 16, 2013 at 10:26 am -

    I’d love to see these ideas incorporated into whatever new stadium gets built. Having the stadium in OP makes no sense geographically speaking. Either put it in downtown or move it closer to the Canadian fans (Niagara Falls or Tonawanda) or closer to the Rochester/Syracuse fans (Lancaster or Batavia). The Ralph is a lost cause and I’m not interested in wasting anymore money on it. The future of the team staying depends on a new stadium long term

  15. Memal January 16, 2013 at 11:03 am -

    Great ideas! And I love that you used a Danbury Mint Stadium to show off your concepts. I use Google Sketchup to get my DIY stadium fixes.

  16. Franksgiving January 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm -

    Love all the ideas. I think they are spot on, and are logical. Let’s just hope the Front Office can implement these ideas (and/or better ones) for the viability of the Buffalo Bills in the long term. I live in Florida and a huge Bills fan (of course!). These amenities you mention would make The Ralph a year round destination for myself, and other Bills fans. Adding to the viability i just mentioned. I in fact love the idea of an on site Museum, just like in Green Bay. Great ideas again Mike. Keep up the good work.

  17. Franksgiving January 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm -

    kmoney is also right. We also do need a new stadium. So which is more important to the Bills viability? A new stadium? or Keep on fixing the Ralph? The Chiefs redid Arrowhead, and it is amazing. I was one for them getting a new stadium, and then I saw Arrowhead. Maybe the Ralph can be better with a renovation, but not just $150 Million + plus? Maybe not. it would be wise to use that money to renovate and build a new stadium on site (on a different lot) or somewhere in WNY. Both ideas are intriguing, but which suits the Bills best?

  18. c January 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm -

    “Cold weather cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh maintain beautiful grass fields.”

    This is a joke, right.

    Heinz Field is widely derided as THE WORST playing surface in the league with the Browns not far behind.

    Spray painting dirt green doesn’t make it beautiful or less dangerous.

  19. buffalobillsgrl January 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm -

    Great design :) Hurry and get it in the right hands. would love to see this come to life