NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said today he’s confident that with the proper improvements to
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo will remain viable as an NFL market and the Bills will remain in Western New York.
However, Goodell stressed that government support will be needed and that the stadium must have renovations to keep the Bills financially competitive in the 32-team league.
“Work with the NFL, work with the team, and make sure the stadium continues to stay competitive,” Goodell said. “That’s the bottom line. It (the stadium) is great. It needs some more work. It means we’re going to have to do some work here. It’s going to take more investment in the stadium. But that’s a great investment, because it will help keep the Bills competitive and keep them here in Western New York, which is what we all want.”
Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. made similar comments in an interview with The News a couple weeks ago. Wilson said the stadium needs some significant upgrades to its structural support, in addition to some cosmetic improvements, and that the state and county will have to remain partners with the Bills in a new lease agreement. The Bills’ current lease runs out in July 2013.
Goodell spoke to a group of about 100 season-ticket holders in one of the end zone club sections at the stadium three hours before the game, then he sat in the stands to watch the Bills play the Eagles. Goodell has made similar fan-forum stops in other cities.
Asked what fans can do to keep the Bills in Buffalo, Goodell said: “I’ll tell you what my job will be but I’ll tell you what your job will be as fans. Continue to support the team. I know the passion for the Bills here. But we need to continue to make sure the fans demonstrate that all the time and continue to come and support the team here. That ultimately is the No. 1 indicator.”
Goodell said the NFL’s new labor agreement with the players, which runs for the next 10 years, will help small-market teams remain viable because it includes enhanced revenue-sharing for smaller-market teams.
Asked about what will happen with Wilson’s estate sells the team, Goodell said: “I hope Mr. Wilson’s going to be around to own this team for a long time. I spoke to him Friday. Talk about a guy who loves the game of football, loves this community and loves the Bills. There’s no one that would be higher on that level than Mr. Wilson, and he’s been a great owner and I hope he’s around for a long time. “
“He has what he thinks are the right steps for the team,” Goodell said. “We will obviously work with him and work with the team to fulfill his wishes. We are confident we will do what’s in the best interests of this community and the league in general. So I think that’s being taken care of.”
Asked to clarify his comment, Goodell reiterated the league’s economic model will allow for Buffalo to stay viable, as long as the support and the proper stadium is in place.
“The point of the question for fans is will we have a process and an ability to keep the Bills here and be successful,” Goodell said. “I think that’s the hope of Mr. Wilson, that the team will continue to be successful here in Western New York.”
Asked what assurances he can make that the Bills will stay in Buffalo, Goodell said: “I don’t think there are assurances of anything, other than if we continue to do our part, meaning we, this community, we continue to keep this facility competitive with others and we continue to support the team, I’m confident we’re going to continue to be successful here in Western New York. And I know the team is already beginning negotiations on a longer term lease, which is something we need to get done.”