Perry you left out one small, yet important piece of information in your argument: the slumping economy in Buffalo and Western New York. If the Bills are going to stay in Buffalo for the long term, they need a new, state-or-the-art stadium. To build it will take an immense amount of capital. If Rogers is willing to hand over another big check for the right to host another series of games in Toronto, the Bills are not in a position to say no.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the surprise teams in the NFC, yet they expect to have every home game blacked out this year because of a lack of ticket sales. In the immortal words of Bills Clinton, “it’s the economy, stupid.” Unless there is a miraculous economic turnaround in Buffalo, there is no way they can say no to that kind of money.
You are bang on Perry when you say that Roger Goodell and the NFL will do everything in their power to keep the Bills in Buffalo. And if that means playing two or three regular season games in Toronto every year to make it happen, then that is what will happen. It doesn’t take an economics major to realize that there is way more money in Toronto than Buffalo. And in the NFL, money counts.
If you stage NFL games in Toronto between two exciting, winning teams, people will come. As for how much money football fans in Toronto are willing to pay to see the NFL is another matter altogether.
If you want to see the Giants take on the Jaguars at the new Meadowlands later this month, tickets will set you back anywhere from US$110 to in excess of $1,750 per ticket. For $63 I can go on Stub Hub and buy one ticket to sit in the Dawg Pound at the Browns-Jets game on Nov. 14. You can buy a ticket to see the Bills at the Rogers Centre in the 500 level starting at C$65 dollars.
If you feel like taking a road trip to Chicago to see the Bears take on the Eagles later this month, you can find tickets on Stub Hub anywhere from $110 to $1,370 if you want to sit in the 5th row of the lower level on the 45-yard line.
Then there is the cost of parking your car at the various stadiums in the NFL. At Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., it costs $40 to park your car, $125 dollars if you have an RV. At Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, parking will cost you anywhere from $25 to $75 dollars.
The bottom line is that going to an NFL game is not cheap. Between ticket prices, personal seat license, parking and concessions, it costs money to enjoy a decent live experience at an NFL game.
The other mitigating factor in this is the man with the golden touch, Paul Beeston. Never underestimate the power and ability of Beeston to get a deal done.
As far as tailgating, blame the city of Toronto and the province of Ontario. Provincial and city regulations strictly prohibit tailgating like they have in Buffalo.
Now is the Bills in Toronto Series working as well as the organizers originally hoped it would? No, of course it isn’t.
Could the NFL work in Toronto? Yes, of course it could.
First off, if Rogers ends up renewing their agreement to host regular-season Bills games in Toronto, the price point for tickets will be lower. That will help. The biggest thing that would help is if the Bills had a winning team.
With the exception of the Maple Leafs, the city of Toronto loves a front-running winning team. If you are a winning team and you have some star power, they will come out and support you. The Bills in Toronto organizers had the bad misfortune of signing an agreement with the team while it was in the midst of one of its worst stretches in franchise history. Had the Bills been Western New York’s version of the Saints, complete with its star quarterback and flashy offence, things might have been completely different.
Staging NFL games in Toronto can work with more a reasonable price point for tickets and a winning team. Lowering the ticket prices isn’t that hard, turning the Bills into a perennial contending team is proving to be much, much harder.