MUSIC - the over the hill gang by Sam Spence and NFL films
Ralph Wilson Stadium - Opened in 1973 and is still in use. Known as Rich Stadium 1973 - 1998, Ralph Wilson Stadium 1998 to present.
Location - 1 Bills Dr. Orchard Park, New York. About 15 minutes southwest of downtown Buffalo.
Talk about going from the outhouse to the penthouse. After years of playing in dilapidated War Memorial stadium, the Buffalo Bills moved into their new home, Rich Stadium, in 1973. Rich stadium, as it was known from 1973-1998, isn't even in Buffalo. It's in suburban Orchard Park New York, about a 20 minute drive from downtown Buffalo. The new facility was light years better than War Memorial stadium. The old park was antiquated, no parking, and not in the best of neighborhoods. Rich stadium had acres of parking and was easier to get to, not to mention the amenities. Granted, you would still freeze your ass off during games in November and December, but sightlines were better along with much more concession stands. All in all, it was a win win for Buffalo Bills fans.
Rich stadium wasn't without controversy. Years of litigation ended with a financial settlement for a developer who had planned to build the stadium in Lancaster New York. Finally construction began in Orchard Park in 1971. Rich food products signed a 25 year deal for the naming rights to the stadium. This was one of the first naming rights deals to be put on a sporting facility. After the original deal terminated in 1998, the stadium was renamed for the owner of the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson.
Wilson stadium is like Lambeau field in Green Bay. Opposing teams HATE to come to Buffalo in November and December. Don't even mention playoff games in January. More often than not, you will encounter brutal winds and lake effect snows if you go to a game in winter. Kickers especially hate the winds that swirl inside the open air stadium.
The Bills have had their share of stars playing in Orchard Park. From the early teams led by Joe Ferguson to the 4 consecutive Super Bowl teams of Jim Kelly, the Bills have had a love affair with the fans of western New York. Players like Thurman Thomas, Fred Smerlas, Joe Delamielleure, James Lofton, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith called Rich Stadium home. The Bills have officially retired the number 12 worn by quarterback Jim Kelly. So far it is the only number retired, although Thurman Thomas number 34, Bruce Smith's number 78 and OJ Simpson's number 32 have not been worn since those players retired. One person who was with the Bills the longest was not a player. He was longtime broadcaster Van Miller. For 37 seasons, Miller called Bills games for the fans in Western New York. Starting with the first Bills game ever at old War Memorial stadium (on July 30, 1960, against the Boston Patriots) to his last game of the 2003 season. Miller was the longest tenured broadcaster with one team in pro football history.
Besides football, all the usual events happen at Wilson stadium. Most notably rock concerts. Everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Rolling Stones to Billy Joel have played concerts here. On January 1, 2008, hockey was center stage at Wilson stadium. The Buffalo Sabres played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the AMP Energy NHL winter classic. Pittsburgh won in a shootout 2-1. In true Buffalo fashion, a snowstorm started midway thru the second period.
Wilson stadium had an original capacity of 80,020 but the total was reduced to 73,967 as part of their leas renewal with Erie County New York. At that time, the stadium was refitted with larger seats and more luxury and club seating. In the summer of 2007, a new hi def LED board and ribbon boards were installed.
Wilson stadium will continue to be the home for the Buffalo Bills for years to come. However, starting in 2008, an 8th home game will be played at Rogers Centre in Toronto. They will play one game a year in Toronto for five years. No matter what the venue, fans will still flock to see their Buffalo Bills come rain or shine or more often SNOW!
Ralph Wilson stadium from the north parking lot. 6/05
Map showing where Ralph Wilson Stadium is. Photo from internet.
Turn back 11 years to 1994. Rich stadium as it is known then is getting ready for a Billy Joel concert. 7/94
Inside Rich stadium, and the concert setup for Billy Joel. 7/94
Another view of Rich stadium. 7/94
Gameday dawns cold and windy as the Bills face the Seattle Seahawks. 10/95
As you can tell by the flat to the right, the winds were howling about 40 miles an hour. And the temprature was about 43 degrees also. 10/95
A view of the scoreboard in the north end zone. 10/95
The concession area on the west side of the stadium. 10/95
The Bills fieldhouse practice facility just to the west of Ralph Wilson stadium. Photo from internet, date unknown.
You can see the city of Buffalo off in the distance. Photo from internet, date unknown.
Leaving the game and heading to the car, after a very windy and cold day. Rich stadium is home for many fans in western New York. It has a distinct home field advantage much like Lambeau. The weather! My advice is to dress WARM. 10/95
You can call it Rich stadium or Ralph Wilson stadium, either way its home for the Buffalo Bills. 5/05