The Buffalo Bills’ days of playing at New Era Field have officially come to an end.
No, Josh Allen and the Bills aren’t moving to St. Louis or another city in desperate need of an NFL franchise. The building once known as New Era Field — and before that, Ralph Wilson Stadium — simply has a new name.
If the Buffalo Bills are smart, they’ll keep the stadium’s new name, as bland as it may be, in place for good. Here’s why.
The Buffalo Bills have played at their current stadium since 1973
Originally called Rich Stadium, the building at 1 Bills Drive has hosted the Buffalo Bills for nearly 50 years.
The Buffalo Bills have spent most of their seasons since the AFL-NFL merger at that stadium. Rich Stadium became Ralph Wilson Stadium, named for the Bills’ longtime owner, in 1988.
As many other teams sold their stadium’s naming rights and ditched the names of former owners for insurance companies, the Bills stood firm.
That was until 2016, when Ralph Wilson Stadium became New Era Field. Although tailgates remained the same, the Bills became the latest franchise in a long line of organizations to put money over legacies.
The building’s new name is Bills Stadium
The Buffalo Bills’ agreement with New Era ended in July when the latter requested a release.
In a way, the Bills went back to their roots with the newest stadium name. Instead of renaming the building after Wilson, who passed away in March 2014, Buffalo now plays at Bills Stadium.
The change is an interesting one. Not many professional sports teams still play at stadiums named after the team and there are no such franchises in the NFL.
The name change is not permanent, though. The Bills tweeted they are still in the “transition process from New Era Field to a new naming rights partner.”
The Buffalo Bills should keep the new stadium name
There aren’t many stadiums left in North America with a unique name.
In baseball, the ‘big three stadiums’ — Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium — all have their signature names. In the NFL, only four teams play in stadiums that don’t have naming agreements — and that includes the Bills.
That number increases to five if Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, is counted. The Ford family has owned the Lions since November 1963.
The Bills could certainly benefit from the added cash that comes from a naming rights agreement. At the same time, it could be nice for fans to see a stadium that isn’t named for a cell phone or insurance company.
When the Bills moved on from Ralph Wilson Stadium, it served as another reminder that the money spoke loudest.
As the Bills enter a new era (pun fully intended) with Josh Allen and Devin Singletary leading the way, returning to the old tradition of a non-corporate stadium could serve the franchise well.