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Should another relocation cause the Bills to consider building a domed stadium? A Q&A with Bills COO Ron Raccuia


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6 hours ago, Buddy said:

Should another relocation cause the Bills to consider building a domed stadium? A Q&A with Bills COO Ron Raccuia

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No. Relocation of games is due to 10 to 25 year weather events where no one can travel relatively safely to get to any stadium dome or no dome.

Reason you consider building a dome is to mitigate the weather that hampers an almost 100% passing league teams problems. Wind, cold, rain, sleet, ice. 

Also to sell more tickets and concessions on bad weather days. Both too hot and too cold. Especially as the avg NFL fan is getting older. To also increase revenue intake potential options for year round facility. Could be built with convention center attached or even some kind of hybrid use to include a new Hockey space for Sabres.

I am pro dome for simple reason. It gives my favorite team (BIlls) best chance to win. And by doing so best chance for home field in playoffs.(mahomes has never played a road playoff game) It is also every bit as good of an environment (and louder than outdoors) as Ford Field has proven for Bills now twice.

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For the second time in eight years, the Buffalo Bills needed to escape a harsh Western New York snowstorm for cozier confines in, of all locales, Ford Field.

This isn’t the type of winter destination that insists visitors pack sunblock and flip-flops, but Ford Field offers shelter not found in Western New York or other Rust Belt markets.

As such, the Motor City is a beacon for desperate NFL wayfarers.

Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns renewed questions about the Bills’ plan to build an open-air stadium across Abbott Road in Orchard Park instead of a domed facility that could better withstand brutal conditions.

Orchard Park, where Highmark Stadium is located and the new stadium will be built across Abbott Road, endured an even worse scenario than what happened eight years ago, when the Bills had to relocate a home against the New York Jets to Ford Field. The 2014 bombardment dumped more than 5 feet of wet, heavy snow south of Buffalo and was blamed for 13 deaths. Widespread power outages, interstate closures and millions of dollars in property damage impacted the entire region.

This past Friday alone, Orchard Park breezed to New York’s single-day snowfall record with an unofficial 66 inches Friday alone. The previous record of 50 inches was set in 1966 in Camden, N.Y.

Orchard Park totaled 80 inches through Sunday, second only to Hamburg’s 81.2 inches.

South Buffalo didn’t designate a reading from the National Weather Service, but adjacent Blasdell measured 76 inches. Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga measured 36.6 inches.

Could a domed stadium have protected the Bills from being displaced, players and coaches from distraction, fans from home-game deprivation?

The Athletic interviewed Bills chief operating officer Ron Raccuia about the subject.

If the Bills played in a domed stadium, then how would this week have played out differently regarding Sunday’s home game against the Browns?

It wouldn’t have. The game still would have been moved to Detroit on Thursday. The entire conversation with the league, our county officials, our state officials, Homeland Security were all about safety in the community and resources needed to manage what the National Weather Service considered its highest-level snowstorm. That was all we discussed. It was never about having enough people to shovel out the stadium or getting the stadium ready.

Games get postponed and moved from domed stadiums too. Hockey and basketball games and other indoor venues experience this. I’d venture to guess the Sabres have had as many games moved or postponed as the Bills have in their history. Even Madison Square Garden has postponed games because of weather, and that’s clearly because the community is going through something significant.

We were under a state of emergency. There are not many public events held during states of emergency, domed stadium or not.

Snow bands in the Southtowns are notoriously nasty. What if a domed stadium were built in Buffalo and not in Orchard Park?

At noon Thursday, on a call I had with Homeland Security, the New York State director told me the City of Buffalo was the bull’s eye for this storm. With all the information we had, we still would have moved the game because the projected path and snowfall rates were supposed to be heaviest in Buffalo. The band didn’t move north, as we all know now, but the city was significantly impacted.

Homeland Security, the National Weather Service and other parties told us what to expect: an extreme storm that would paralyze the region in the next 24 to 48 hours. Search-and-rescue missions were expected. The National Guard was being mobilized. FEMA was considering national declarations. There have been so many more important issues than hosting a football game.

I think it’s disingenuous to talk about the city being that much different from a weather standpoint. South Buffalo and other parts of the city were still under a driving ban as of this (Monday) morning.

Resources have been desperately needed in the city throughout this. If the City of Buffalo got the type of snow that was originally forecasted, then the county and state resources would be in the city because of a catastrophic event. Think about the older houses, the narrower streets, the old trees, the power lines. It could have been devastating, and thank God it didn’t happen that way.

Beyond that, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Friday tweeted a reminder it’s illegal for businesses to make employees come to work if they must traverse a driving-ban area. Same would have gone for fans who wanted to attend. It would have been against the law to be in Orchard Park.

One hundred percent. That was all part of the public-safety component. Everything else was more important than a football game in the community.

How have the past few days influenced the team’s perspective on building an open-air stadium instead of a dome?

No change whatsoever. Our fans did not have an overwhelming response to a domed stadium when we surveyed them in 2018 and 2021. But we’ve been very open and transparent about cost, not just to build, which could be close to $300 million more, but also the cost to maintain. It’s significantly higher on a day-to-day basis than an open-air stadium. For example, you have to keep a domed stadium temperature-controlled throughout the entire year. When you’re not using that domed stadium, which we didn’t feel a domed stadium in Western New York was going to generate any more events than our open-air stadium will attract, all of that is additional cost on the franchise.

As we’ve said from day one, we want to make our stadium affordable for our fans. One of the ways to do that was to be prudent and economical and efficient in what we were building, and we’re building a football-first facility. We examined all of the options. We examined the pricing. We made the best decision that we could.

Sunday’s game in Detroit and the game we moved there in 2014 had nothing to do with whether or not Highmark Stadium had a dome. Both were community decisions. The game couldn’t safely be played with the amount of snowfall we experienced, with the resources needed to stage the game, the safety of fans getting to and from and the surrounding areas.

It’s only two times in 52 years of Highmark Stadium’s existence that this has happened, and both times a dome would not have prevented the game from being moved.

We also could say it’s twice in the past eight years. What concerns do the Bills and the NFL have regarding climate change’s future impact on a region frequently challenged by lake-effect snow?

There’s a lot more technology available to us than when our current stadium was built in the early 1970s. That understanding of weather patterns and wind direction has helped shape a lot of the decisions that we’ve made with the new stadium.

But in terms of managing outside the stadium? We’ll always be at mercy of Mother Nature. When you get record snowfalls 48 hours, 72 hours before a game is about to be played, there’s nothing you can do. It’s very difficult to plan for all of that.

Since 2000 or thereabouts, Cleveland has built a new stadium, not a dome. Pittsburgh has built a new stadium, not a dome. The Patriots, who have pretty much the same type of weather, have invested hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 25 years. Never once have they considered building a new stadium, let alone putting a dome on it. Never once have they thought about putting a canopy or a covering on it.

The only cold-weather cities that have built a domed stadium are Detroit and Minneapolis, which are two very large cities that hold national events, in about a quarter century.

When there is heavy snowfall at the new stadium, and once it’s determined the game can be played safely, how differently will the snow be handled in ways the current stadium cannot?

The issues we have in the current stadium start with having only one tunnel. Getting snow in and out of one tunnel is a big problem. The new stadium will have at least four tunnels and possibly six different areas to remove it.

The way Highmark Stadium was constructed, you have snow on the field and in every bowl and every level. Everything below the 300 level has to all be transferred down onto the field and then trucked out the one tunnel, which exacerbates the challenge.

The upper deck in Highmark Stadium also makes it extremely difficult to access and to get snow out of that area. The lower bowl is so narrow that getting trucks around the concourses is difficult, and it’s also not all on the same level. You can’t just traverse 360 degrees all the way around.

All of the modern advances of the new stadium are going to assist in situations like this. It will have a lot of features that make it easier to manage any type of major snowfall.

The field is going to be heated with a sub-air system underneath. That will be much more efficient.

The canopy will help snow management in the seating areas, with 65 percent of the fans being covered. Wind buffering will help. A lot of the snow that would fall into Highmark Stadium simply won’t fall into the new one. The stacked design of our levels will protect some of the sections from snowfall. An abundance of radiant heating is going to melt snow. The wide concourses will make it easier, too.

How will getting to and from the new stadium in wintery weather be different?

The new stadium is going to be nothing like the old stadium. How you get in, where you go, how you get out, the effectiveness of how to enter and exit, all of that will make it an easier process than it is currently.

When it comes to traffic, the ingress and egress of parking is going to be much improved. How we’ve managed the flow of parking — and where we can put snow and how we dispose of it from the parking lots and walkways — will be better planned and designed.

How does the depth of the playing field below ground affect things?

Field level of the new stadium — right now, and some of this is dependent on what we find once we start digging — is anticipated to be about one story below the gate entries. It’s currently two and a half to three, but that doesn’t matter tremendously on this topic. The lack of tunnels is the major factor.

What other options were considered before the NFL finalized relocating the game to Detroit?

The league has a number of designated, alternative sites available every week in case something were to happen to a home site. Almost exclusively, the other cities on the list to host these relocations have a dome so there isn’t a second weather impact that forces another tough decision. These cities generally are spread throughout the country so the team coming from the city that’s impacted can get there reasonably. Detroit happened to be the top location this week, and they did an amazing job being ready.

You faced a lot of criticism, especially Saturday as fans were anxiously monitoring social media to see if the team would escape Western New York, about not leaving for Detroit sooner. In retrospect, what could have been done differently to make a harrowing process smoother?

Remember, this decision was made at 4 p.m. Thursday before a single flake of snow had fallen. We had to quickly figure out logistics of how we were going to move our operations, informing the team, getting a 767 airplane that can take 140-some-odd people with 13,000 or 14,000 pounds of luggage. A 767 can fly in and out of exactly two airports around us, Buffalo and Niagara Falls. We couldn’t fly out of Rochester, for instance, because the runway isn’t long enough for that kind of plane carrying that much weight.

How do you get all those people into that frame of mind, to up and leave, when their families aren’t secure? They don’t know how the storm is going to go. The storm was moving. Were we going to head right into it? If we were going to move everybody to a hotel, how did we know that place wouldn’t get buried or lose power?

We absolutely could not get out on Thursday, and Friday was the storm, with driving bans, impassable roads, states of emergency. The airport was closed.

So much went into this. There was really no way we could get out of town any sooner than we did.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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1 hour ago, nealpellecchia@yahoo said:

What if climate change continues to worsen weather in buffalo and they just built this new open stadium that often can't be used?

They will adjust. They will build dorms next to stadium and team will move in before storm hits and visiting team also will arrive before storm hits. Then play to sparse crowds or no crowds if travel ban on game day.


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1 hour ago, LIBills said:

Even if they had a dome, how are fans going to get to a game when there is 7 feet of snow on the ground leading up to game day and/or on game day?

It's Buffalo. And that's a very rare occurrence.

I remember 1995, Christmas Eve, it snowed 5' that day. Every hour I went out to shovel the driveway and after the storm subsided, my GF and I got in my truck and went to Dennys for Dinner

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“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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I can see both sides here.  I think CBA fan nailed the pro-dome take.  Of course when he said it favors his team's chances of winning, it would seem he is referring to the current roster. That point becomes debatable when one considers that by the time Josh Allen gets to play in the new stadium, he will be well into his career, and for all we know the Bills may have established a running game capable of handling those 1-3 home games per year that possibly could limit him substantially more than the opponent.  Wind and rain actually may be bigger factors against his passing attack than snow.  Numerous comments under articles elsewhere said snow actually favors the passer, as the receiver knows when they are going to make their cut, unlike the defender.  Considering the NE loss, the tardiness in both defensive and offensive adjustments(and IIRC 1 long run which besmirched our safeties who finally had enough of the media in the presser and let them have it!) were what prevented victory.  The defensive adjustments need no mention, but for all of the people crying out for Brian Daboll in the Shoutbox during the last game, IIRC when he finally let Josh pass during that game, Josh did ok.  It was just a bit late coming. 

That said, CBA's other points are quite valid, and worthy of consideration when weighed against the cost, which I make no claims of expertise at all about.


The fact that I remember the Snow Bowl from 2017 when a rookie Tre'Davious White got to exhibit his child-like spirit with his snow dance as CBS was cutting to commercial, of the oft-maligned Shady McCoy proving his value with his heroics including the game winning TD, and (IIRC) a 3rd string or emergency QB converting on an epic semi-long pass when it was needed, are testimony that such games do not occur as often as some may assume.  Heck, I seem to recall when the Fins visited maybe around 2003 and the Bills ran wild on them and racked up the score(back when the Fins were still the Fins, not yet replaced by NE for Bills fans), and WISHING to see more Fins games in the snow!!

I do not claim to have the "right" answer(if there even is one, taxpayers may be getting the shaft either way), and could probably be happy with either option, but think a lot of context is often overlooked, IMO. 


Andy did you hear about this one?-REM . "I don't think I'm easy to talk about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not anything that you think I am anyway". -Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd. Rolling Stone, December 1971.  https://nativeamericanchurches.org/ My Adopt A Bill is Stefon Diggs  My 2nd Adopt A Bill is Christian Wade(he gets an exemption and doesn't require a spot) :)    Being staff seemed unable to train an elite legend how to run, Cole Beasley is my backup.   (I doubt that explanation is wanted).

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For me, relocation touches on some issues that might not be as meaningful to others.  I'm not a fan of how synthetic and contrived society has become, with the increasing lack of things that are authentic.  I suspect that the new stadium itself will lead more in that direction, but a relocated version would do so even more so.  It might not matter to those here, and I myself may never get to take part again(even if I'm currently unbanned by Terry and Kim[sincerely unsure], and even if the TSA rolls back it's new demands for biometrics to fly), my point is wanting others to have the chance for an authentic tailgating/bonding experience.  

I seem to recall reading on here maybe last season that things had already started to die down in that area with some sort of new tailgating area that I don't recall the details of at the moment, but recall it gave it the feel of being more synthetic.  From what I recall of downtown speculation, it gave the impression of things being downright sterile.

I can appreciate that many here might have old balls and not care(and I mean even if alcohol was banned, I'd still like Pinto Ron/Kenny and those who cook in a more logical and less artistic manner to still be able to do their thing rather than being viewed as numbers in a formula), but I view a choice of a more authentic(and likely less expensive) experience for fans as something meaningful and worthy of consideration.  Part of that experience includes not having armed thugs in a government issued costume carrying around assault rifles at the expense of those they're meant to intimidate, with the articles promoting such all listing one instance of a couple fornicating in a car amongst the reasons why permitting such a cold atmosphere is a good thing.  I think fans all all walks could for the most part rally around the idea of not having this society look like the police states we used to associate with Eastern Europe or banana republics.  That's more dangerous to the psyche of young kids than the improbable likelihood of seeing fornication, IMO.

Andy did you hear about this one?-REM . "I don't think I'm easy to talk about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not anything that you think I am anyway". -Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd. Rolling Stone, December 1971.  https://nativeamericanchurches.org/ My Adopt A Bill is Stefon Diggs  My 2nd Adopt A Bill is Christian Wade(he gets an exemption and doesn't require a spot) :)    Being staff seemed unable to train an elite legend how to run, Cole Beasley is my backup.   (I doubt that explanation is wanted).

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