SBD/March 5, 2014/Franchises

Bills Postpone Toronto Game, Will Play Full '14 Home Schedule At Ralph Wilson Stadium

Attendance at last year's Toronto game was at least 12,000 short of a sellout
The Bills this morning announced they are postponing their scheduled regular-season home game in Toronto this year and moving it back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills and Rogers Media plan to use this year to evaluate opportunities to enhance future games played in Toronto. Both parties said they remain committed to the partnership. The Bills annually have played a game at Rogers Centre since '08, and the team began a new five-year extension of the deal last year (Bills). Bills President & CEO Russ Brandon this morning said, "We’re going to review everything, from the gameday experience and ticket pricing and all other facets of the project. And we’ll make determinations of the series moving forward after we go through a lengthy review, and see where it takes us from there." Brandon noted the team has had "great success with the regionalization process in Toronto," adding the "biggest positive has been the significant increase in our Southern Ontario fans coming back to games here at Ralph Wilson Stadium." The greater Toronto area currently is the team's "largest regional market," having "inched past Rochester a couple of years ago." Brandon: "So it certainly has worked. The 1-5 record (at the Rogers Centre) has not. We’ve been very open about that." He added, "This year was a setback. We had made some strides since the start of the series. We’ve made a lot of different tweaks in the past. But we just felt that we had to look at this in greater detail moving forward" ("The Howard Simon Show," WGR-AM, 3/5). In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan notes the initial five-year deal "was a financial windfall for the Bills," though terms of the extension have not been made public. However, sources said that the terms "are not nearly as tilted in the Bills’ favor, and that the team is not grossing much more than it would take in at The Ralph" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/5).

NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS...: In Buffalo, Tim Graham cites a source as saying that skipping a game in Toronto "was not an easy sell" for some Bills execs, but Brandon and coach Doug Marrone "won them over." Graham writes, "We all know outsourcing a precious home game to Toronto put the Bills at a competitive disadvantage." Marrone "valiantly tried to mask his frustrations over the Toronto series when asked about it last year, but contempt bubbled below the surface." The source said that Brandon "faced a long, uphill battle to reach an internal consensus for drastic amendments to the Toronto deal." But Brandon "got it done, and that's a good sign for Bills fans who are tired of financial decisions getting in the way of football decisions" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/5).
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