<
>

Ralph Wilson Stadium will soon be NFL's most dated venue

As the dust begins to settle from the NFL's long-awaited leap into the Los Angeles market, the league is moving closer to dropping two of its oldest and most outmoded venues: San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium and Oakland's O.co Coliseum, both of which opened in the 1960s.

Where exactly the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders play in the coming years remains to be seen, but in any case the Buffalo Bills will soon hold the distinction of having the NFL's most dated stadium.

That doesn't figure to change in the near future. According to team president Russ Brandon, the Bills are not yet working on a new stadium.

"There's a lot of speculation," he said Thursday at an event sponsored by The Buffalo News. "We are working on Ralph Wilson Stadium and Ralph Wison Stadium only for the time being."

On Aug. 1, the Bills will enter the fourth year of their 10-year stadium lease with Erie County. But Ralph Wilson Stadium, opened in 1973, is becoming a dinosaur by NFL standards.

While Chicago's Soldier Field (opened in 1924), Green Bay's Lambeau Field (1957) and Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium (1972) are all older than Ralph Wilson Stadium, all of those facilities have undergone extensive renovations in the past two decades. Ralph Wilson Stadium underwent a modest $130 million tune-up two years ago, but the changes were far less drastic than in the other three cases and were focused more on keeping the stadium operable in the short term than viable in the long term.

Meanwhile, stadiums newer than Ralph Wilson Stadium are being extensively renovated or replaced. The Miami Dolphins are in the second year of a $400 million overhaul to Sun Life Stadium, opened in 1987. The Atlanta Falcons will open a $1.4 billion venue next year to replace the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992. And the Rams dumped St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome, completed in 1995, for a massive project in L.A. that NFL owners have lauded.

The issue of replacing or extensively renovating Ralph Wilson Stadium is hardly new. The team's latest stadium lease called for a "new stadium working group" to form, which happened in 2014. The committee met once, in April 2014, following the death of former owner Ralph Wilson.

But a spokesperson for Erie County, which appointed seven members to the group, told ESPN on Friday that the committee has not met since 2014 and there are no plans to meet again.

Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who purchased the team in Oct. 2014, have pumped the brakes on the process since taking control of the franchise. Terry Pegula said in his introductory news conference, "We will gradually proceed to plan and design a stadium for the Buffalo Bills," but nearly a year later, in July 2015, he said that it would look "foolish" to start planning for a new stadium after the recent renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Almost another six months passed before Brandon's latest update Thursday.

"We are still working through the renovations of Ralph Wilson Stadium," he said, via The Buffalo News. "We think that renovation will serve us very well."

He also added a reminder that Terry and Kim Pegula buying the Bills took the team out of consideration to move to Los Angeles this winter.

"I can promise you this, there wasn't an owner in the room who didn't think that the Buffalo Bills wouldn't have been part of that equation," Brandon said.