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Ralph Wilson Stadium
"The Ralph"
Bills.jpg
Former names Rich Stadium (1973-1998)
Location 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park, New York 14127
Coordinates 42°46′25″N 78°47′13″W / 42.77361°N 78.78694°W / 42.77361; -78.78694Coordinates: 42°46′25″N 78°47′13″W / 42.77361°N 78.78694°W / 42.77361; -78.78694
Opened 1973
Owner Erie County, New York
Operator Erie County, New York
Surface AstroPlay
Construction cost $22 million USD
Architect HNTB
Capacity 80,020 (original)
73,967 (current)
Tenants
Buffalo Bills (NFL) (1973-present)

Ralph Wilson Stadium is a football stadium located in the town of Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. It is the home stadium for the Buffalo Bills National Football League football team and is the largest stadium of any kind in New York. It was originally named Rich Stadium.

Contents

History

What is now known as Ralph Wilson Stadium, also known as "The Ralph", was commissioned as a result of the AFL–NFL merger. While suitable for American Football League play, Buffalo War Memorial Stadium was both in disrepair and deemed undersized for a National Football League team, with a capacity of under 47,000 (league mandates instituted after the merger dictated a minimum of 50,000 seats).

The stadium opened in 1973. The construction of the stadium and its location were the source of years of litigation, which ended with a financial settlement for a developer who had planned to erect an all-weather stadium in Lancaster, New York. However, plans changed because it was not wanted near Lancaster High School. In 1972, Rich Products signed a 25-year, $1.5 million deal, by which the venue would be called "Rich Stadium"; this is one of the earliest examples of the sale of naming rights in North American sports. After the original deal expired in 1998, the stadium was renamed in honor of Bills founder and owner Ralph Wilson, after Rich balked at paying a greatly increased rights fee, which would have brought the price up to par with other NFL stadiums.

The first playoff game at the stadium was a 17–10 Bills victory over the Houston Oilers on January 1, 1989. The Bills won every ensuing playoff game at the stadium until they were defeated by the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 28, 1996.

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Other events

On January 1, 2008, the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 NHL Winter Classic.[1] The Penguins won 2–1 in a shootout.

It has also hosted, three times, the Drum Corps International championships and annually hosts the region's Section VI high school football playoffs. Occasional large-scale concerts are held at the stadium. Many famous Classic Rock artists have performed at "The Ralph." These include: The Who, The Rolling Stones, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Van Halen, Foreigner, Santana, Billy Joel, Grateful Dead, Elton John, and Tom Petty amongst others. Led Zeppelin was set to perform there on their 1977 Tour of North America, but the concert was cancelled because of the death of lead singer Robert Plant's son. Michael Jackson performed at Rich Stadium during the 1984 Victory Tour. The Rolling Stones played there early on in their Bridges to Babylon tour in 1997 in which followed up a successful record launch. Since then, however (especially with the opening of the HSBC Arena in downtown Buffalo), concert appearances began to wane. An N*SYNC concert (opened by Dream) was performed there in 2000, while a Dave Matthews Band/Macy Gray concert also took place in June 2001. The last concert that would have played at the stadium was a Bruce Springsteen concert in 2001; however, it was canceled due to low ticket sales and moved to the smaller Darien Lake Performing Arts Center instead. No concerts have been held at the stadium since.

Design

The stadium is open-air, with a capacity of 73,967. The field is made of AstroTurf GameDay Grass. The stadium originally had a capacity of 80,020, however the capacity was reduced in 1998 as a part of the Bills lease renewal with Erie County, New York. The stadium at that time was refitted with larger seats and more luxury and club seating. The lease agreement also stipulated that Erie County would continue to upgrade the stadium; in summer 2007 a new High Definition Mitsubishi LED board measuring 88.8' by 32.5' and ribbon boards were installed. Total cost for the project was $5.2 million. The new scoreboard replaced the old 41.5' by 31.5' Sony JumboTron installed 13 years earlier for $8 million (inflation adjusted).

Buffalo is one of the nation's windiest cities, and as a result, Ralph Wilson Stadium often is a difficult stadium for kickers to play in, with swirling winds that change direction rapidly. This is exacerbated by the design of the stadium. The field is fifty feet below ground level, while the top of the upper deck stands only sixty feet above ground. The open end lies parallel to the direction of the prevailing winds, so that when the winds come in, they immediately drop down into the bowl, causing the stadium's signature wind patterns.

Photo gallery

Notes

External links

Preceded by
War Memorial Stadium
Home of the
Buffalo Bills

1973 – Present
Succeeded by
Current stadium
Preceded by

Arrowhead Stadium
Foxboro Stadium
Byrd Stadium
Host of the
Drum Corps International
World Championship

1990
1995
2001
Succeeded by

Cotton Bowl Stadium
Citrus Bowl
Camp Randall Stadium
Preceded by
none
Host of the NHL Winter Classic
2008
Succeeded by
Wrigley Field

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