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NFL Merry-Go-Round: Relocation Roundelay


duma
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I'm not sure it's fair to gauge a market based on attendance for what are essentially exhibition games. They aren't the "Toronto" Bills, and they aren't in the tile picture. I realize there's not much else to go on, but it's totally reasonable to assume that the response would be different if the team wore the city's name on its chest. I feel the same way about NHL exhibitions like in KC.

I agree with you and almost wrote something similarly. That said, the counter-argument is obviously that these aren't actually exhibitions. They're real regular season games.

But I'm with you. They may be real games, but they're not Toronto's team. Reading through some comments (the best source of information, right!?), it really does sound like Torontonians do not necessarily have an affinity for the Bills. And the Bills stink.

I can't guarantee Toronto would be a successful market, but I'm a strong believer that special games or minor league teams are not a very good indicator of whether a major professional team would be supported. I think it's far better to look at the traditional factors of market size and support of other teams in the city.

I'm betting that if Toronto had it's own NFL team, they'd do well. But who knows. And there's a lot of things that would have to happen to get them a team anyways.

See, fans need to recognize these events for what they are. Test balloons to gauge the market value. If Toronto sports fans want an NFL team then they need to support the Bills in Toronto experiment to show the league that a team can succeed there. It may not be "their" team (though in some ways it is, being the closest NFL team to Toronto and all) but it's their chance to show the NFL their market is worthy of their league.

From the NFL's perspective what else do they have to gauge interest in the NFL other then these Bills in Toronto games?

The other variable with Toronto is that they already have a football team... the Argos.

How bad has the football been in the Bils Toronto series? Out of the six regular season games played in Toronto, the opponent has only had a winning record twice coming into the game and the Bills have only had a winning record once. Still, I just don't think it feels like Toronto "wants" an NFL team. And the stadium...

The stadium issue's really the one that people forget when they talk about the NFL in Toronto. The Rogers Centre is small by NFL standards (and selling it out for Bills games has been a struggle). At best it would be a temporary home until an NFL calibre stadium could be built in Toronto. Problem is that there is no public will in Toronto to invest taxpayer money in such a venture. BMO Field was it.

So lacklustre support for NFL football and no way to get a stadium built with public finances. Somehow I don't see this as an attractive venture for the NFL.

Plus the NFL in Toronto would probably kill the Argos. Which would mean killing an organization older then every team in the NFL and killing the CFL on top of that. I like the NFL, but I also like the CFL and I would very much like to see the latter survive, thank you very much ;)

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See, fans need to recognize these events for what they are. Test balloons to gauge the market value. If Toronto sports fans want an NFL team then they need to support the Bills in Toronto experiment to show the league that a team can succeed there. It may not be "their" team (though in some ways it is, being the closest NFL team to Toronto and all) but it's their chance to show the NFL their market is worthy of their league.

From the NFL's perspective what else to they have to gauge interest in the NFL other then these Bills in Toronto games?

Agreed. If Oklahoma City had said "yeah, but the Hornets aren't winning the championship, and they're not really 'our' team anyway" they'd never have been considered as a relocation option. Ever.

Fans need to step up whenever given an opportunity, because those opportunities are seldom given and always watched closely.

Milwaukee has the Brewers because they were willing to pack County Stadium to watch a mediocre White Sox club play some games there. The American League took notice, and although they were unwilling to give up on Chicago they let Bud Selig move the next club he could.

Not that a lack of interest in these games mean it's necessarily a bad market. But they've had an opportunity to show that they're a good one, and failed miserably.

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I'm a Torontonian who has been to Bills games at Ralph Wilson and Rogers Centre. Both options aren't very good.

The atmosphere and tailgating scene in Buffalo is fantastic... but having the stadium in the middle of a residential area in Orchard Park is bizarre and hard to get to. It's old and creeky, the amenities are really really bad. It takes forever to get home... and if it snows, forget about it.

Just dumping a game in a not-so-big, stuffy, poorly lit living room like the Rogers Centre isn't the answer either. I think they assumed that there were enough Bills fans in Toronto to create a good atmosphere without much effort. They were wrong. I know for certain that Toronto would support an NFL team if they moved permanently, but I don't want to see that happen.

The Bills, in order to stay in Buffalo, need to embrace Canadian fans with their own.

- Build a new stadium in Niagara Falls, NY near the border. It'll rejuvenate the American side of the falls (which is run down), while making it far easier for Canadian fans into the stadium. Buffalonians will have to travel a little father, though.

- Advertise and expand their Charter Bus programs for Toronto & Hamilton fans.

- Promote the Bills throughout Toronto and Hamilton. Get the Toronto media to cover the Bills with the other major Toronto teams. Invest on building the fanbase in Southern Ontario.

- Build a team that MAKES THE PLAYOFFS for once. Team success is the best way to generate buzz.

That's my solution.

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- Build a new stadium in Niagara Falls, NY near the border. It'll rejuvenate the American side of the falls (which is run down), while making it far easier for Canadian fans into the stadium. Buffalonians will have to travel a little father, though.

Niagara Falls isn't much further from the city then Orchard Park is. The thing most will complain about is the toll.

I had refrained from posting this, as it doesn't really mean anything yet, but the NY governor has formed a "New Stadium Working Group" to discuss the stadium situation. The state, Erie County, and the Bills can each appoint up to seven people to be on this board. The process is undefined and it's not even clear what this board's powers are, but it's more than I expected. Erie County is where Buffalo is and where the Bills' stadium has always been (the county owns the current stadium). The governor appointed five people to the board recently, one of them being the mayor of Niagara Falls, NY. It's sorta almost like the LA/Orange County dynamic, but with less money. Niagara Falls and Niagara County are sort of their own thing, but not totally. This mayor seems fairly competent, but it's not like he's a development wunderkind or anything... Niagara Falls USA has been spinning its wheels development-wise just like under previous regimes, and I have no idea what he's doing on this board. It's possible that the governor may have his eyes on Niagara Falls for a stadium, but it's gonna be a weird process to get there with Erie County so fundamentally involved in the planning. It also means that the state will basically have to go it alone with funding: Niagara County and its 200,000 people are even poorer than Erie County and its 900,000 people.

I really think the stadium should be somewhere north and/or east of Buffalo, if they really want to regionalize towards Toronto, Rochester and Syracuse. Downtown Buffalo would be OK as long as the stadium site has metro rail access. Niagara Falls would look cool, but I'm not sure the infrastructure is totally there to handle 50,000 cars all at once and I'm not sure how they would get it there.

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Florio from PFT always seems to put this sort of spin on these situations, so I wouldn't read too much into it. It's all speculation.

That said, he's hypothesizing that the new stadium committee that the Governor has created in NY is simply a political cover for an inevitable Bills move. He believes this because the Bills currently want to upgrade their stadium rather than building a new one.

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/02/16/bills-stadium-committee-could-be-advance-political-cover/

I find the whole thing confusing. Since the team will inevitably be sold (something Florio notes), why would the desires of the current ownership be worth catering too anyways. Perhaps the politicians realize that new stadiums are much more appealing than renovated ones and that a new owner will likely feel that way.

Or he could be right. But until we know who their new owner will be, seems like goofy speculation.

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Possibly, unless the mayor hopes to tie the Bills to an extended lease before they're sold.

Or maybe it's about locking them into a new stadium, when the NFL won't want them to kill public financing by abandoning a stadium less than a decade old.

Not that leases can't be broken (I'm still not expecting the Jaguars to finish out their lease in Jacksonville), but it's one more level of protection for Buffalo fans.

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The angle that I think Mike Florio is missing is that I believe this committee idea is entirely the work of the governor... and it's a gubernatorial election year. I was surprised that they were actually taking a semi-concrete step towards a new stadium, but I wouldn't be surprised if this group puts out encouraging but noncommittal reports until November and then goes quiet. I wasn't going to mention it, because I figured it was just election year attention-grabbing, but Braden's mention of Niagara Falls and the appointment of the "outsider" Niagara Falls mayor made me think that it was interesting enough to post.

I think the Bills say they want to keep Ralph Wilson Staidum because there has been a pretty decent amount of taxpayer money put into renovating the staidum recently, with more promised under this new lease. The uncertainty of the looming new owner is something, too, but I think also they don't want to rock the boat too much with this free money they're getting. If the team announced that they were working towards a new stadium, I'm sure there would be a big public outcry about why we are spending millions of taxpayer money to build a new concourse and rewire a stadium that will be knocked down in a few years.

Edit: And we're all forgetting that Ralph Wilson insists he has a plan to keep the team in town after he dies... you just can't ask him about it until after he's dead. He will not detail his alleged plan because he thinks it puts too much focus on his death and eventual successor. But he swears he has one.

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Is Niagara Falls (US) really a good option though if the goal is to cater more to the Canadian fan base? I realize that there's special passport things and "express" lanes for people who cross the border frequently, but just from looking at a google map, it still looks like it's not a really practical solution since anyone from Toronto proper or the northern or eastern suburbs would still have to go through at least two major traffic zones plus the border crossing just to get to the stadium area, which on game day would be a major traffic zone (as well as if the area improves and tourism becomes a factor, though I'm not sure if that would be a factor in fall / winter.)

I did drive from Windsor through Hamilton down to NF then Buffalo (and drove through Orchard Park just for the hell of it) but that was 16 years ago at this point so my memory of everything is hazy at best (plus border patrol wasn't anything then like it is now - no need for passport back then. Hell - no need for valid driver's license!)

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Well, the border crossing can't be avoided. :upside: Niagara Falls still leaves the Rainbow, Whirlpool (limited use) and Lewiston-Queenston bridges as viable options, but makes the Peace Bridge a fairly unattractive option (extra 20-30 min drive from Toronto past the stadium going south and then 20-30 min to go back north on the American side). But that route might even break even compared with what Canadian fans travel now, with the stadium about 30 minutes or more south of the Peace Bridge crossing. For the other 2/3 bridges, the commute would be substantially improved. It really all depends on how well Niagara Falls can handle the traffic locally around the stadium. I thought about the tourism thing, but if Niagara Falls, NY ever develops a problem with too many people coming... well, that'll be the day.

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Edit: And we're all forgetting that Ralph Wilson insists he has a plan to keep the team in town after he dies... you just can't ask him about it until after he's dead. He will not detail his alleged plan because he thinks it puts too much focus on his death and eventual successor. But he swears he has one.

I'm sure he does, actually. Nobody with that much money dies without a plan to keep as much of it as possible in his family. The Bills are a little unlike the Giants or Saints, in that there doesn't seem to be any younger family members ready to step up and run the team when Wilson dies, so the obvious plans seem to be out.

Now, we don't know if it's a good plan. But I know he has one.

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Couple thoughts/questions on his supposed plan.

1. How is the team ownership structure currently set up? When Georgia Frontierre died, her children inherited the Rams and a huge inheritance tax burden that came with it. Had they been football people, perhaps they'd have found a way to keep the franchise, but they aren't, so that burden essentially forced them to sell the team.

I know it's known/assumed that Wilson's family is going to sell the team after he passes, but are the taxes a factor?

2. To your point, Goth, if his goal is to just keep wealth in the family, that can happen without keeping the Bills in Buffalo. They're two separate issues the way I see them. In any case, I'll echo what you said. He surely does have a plan to satisfy both. Whether they're good enough to come to fruition, we'll just have to wait and see.

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Couple thoughts/questions on his supposed plan.

1. How is the team ownership structure currently set up? When Georgia Frontierre died, her children inherited the Rams and a huge inheritance tax burden that came with it. Had they been football people, perhaps they'd have found a way to keep the franchise, but they aren't, so that burden essentially forced them to sell the team.

I know it's known/assumed that Wilson's family is going to sell the team after he passes, but are the taxes a factor?

2. To your point, Goth, if his goal is to just keep wealth in the family, that can happen without keeping the Bills in Buffalo. They're two separate issues the way I see them. In any case, I'll echo what you said. He surely does have a plan to satisfy both. Whether they're good enough to come to fruition, we'll just have to wait and see.

Yeah, I think wanting to keep as much money in the family as possible and wanting the team to stay in Buffalo are two separate things (and possibly even contradictory). I don't think it's necessarily the taxes that scare his kids away; the way I've heard it told, none of them has any interest in running a football team.

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I didn't mean to conflate the two, only to suggest that if he wanted the team to stay in the family it could be arranged. That seems unlikely, given his family, but if he wants them to stay in Buffalo there are ways to make that more viable.

We just don't know if his plan is any good.

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I didn't mean to conflate the two, only to suggest that if he wanted the team to stay in the family it could be arranged. That seems unlikely, given his family, but if he wants them to stay in Buffalo there are ways to make that more viable.

We just don't know if his plan is any good.

He's not a Buffalo guy; I'm not sure he's ever lived here. We weren't even his first pick of where to put his franchise. I'm sure he has some fondness for the city that has hosted his team for 50 years, but I'm honestly not convinced he cares where the team plays after he dies. I think he only cares about while he's alive, kicking, and owner of the Buffalo Bills. That has been the stated reason that he hasn't sold the team thus far: he wanted to win a Super Bowl while he was the owner, not be "the guy whose team eventually won without him".

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In other words: "Farmers Field, forgotten but not gone"

That PFT article could have been cut and pasted from 2 years ago. One word was new: "still."

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