New Era Field, originally Rich Stadium and formerly known as Ralph Wilson Stadium, is a stadium in Orchard Park, New York, a suburb south of Buffalo. Opened in 1973, it is the home of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, the stadium was renamed in 1998 for team founder and then-owner Ralph Wilson. The league mandate instituted after the AFL–NFL merger of 1970 dictated a minimum of 50,000 seats, in early 1971, owner Ralph Wilson was exploring options to relocate the team, possibly to Seattle, with other cities such as Memphis and Tampa soon expressing interest as well. The potential loss of the team hastened the stadium project and Rich Stadium opened in 1973, however, plans changed because it was not wanted to be close to Lancaster High School. The stadium was built by Frank Schoenle and his construction company. Stadium bonds were approved by the county legislature in September 1971, by a vote of 16 to 4, the county legislature approved the name in November 1972, despite a matching offer from Wilson to name it Buffalo Bills Stadium. When the Bills organization regularly referred to the stadium without the Rich name, after the original deal expired after a quarter century in 1998, the stadium was renamed in honor of Wilson. Rich Products balked at paying a greatly increased rights fee, which would have brought the price up to par with other NFL stadiums and it was announced on August 13,2016, that local company New Era Cap Company and the Buffalo Bills reached an agreement for naming rights. The Bills and New Era officially announced the new name of New Era Field five days later. The first NFL playoff game at the stadium came in the 1988 season, the Bills won every ensuing playoff game at the stadium until they were defeated in 1996 by the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 28. The stadium is open-air, with a capacity of 71,870, the stadium has never had a natural grass surface, AstroTurf was installed in the stadium upon its opening in 1973. The first renovation occurred in 1984 when the capacity was increased to 80,290 with the addition of 16 executive suites. Eight years later in 1992,24 more executive suites were added, in 1994, major renovations were made to the stadium including the addition of the Red Zone and Goal Line clubs that are enclosed in glass and have 500 seats. These renovations also added 14 executive suites, a massive $9.1 million 41.5 by 31.5 feet Sony JumboTron video scoreboard was a major update in 1994 and was the largest in the U. S. at the time. In 1998, $57 million were spent to refit the stadium with seats and more luxury and club seating as a part of the Bills lease renewal with Erie County. This caused the capacity to be reduced to just under 74,000. In the 2003 offseason, the original turf was replaced with a newer AstroTurf product. Over 1,000 ft of Mitsubishi Diamond Vision LED Ribbon Boards were also installed in the interior during that renovation
Image: New Era Field logo
A look at the newly renovated stadium in December 2014. The two new HD video boards and new LED sponsor board are visible on the tunnel end of the stadium.
New Era Field (then known as Ralph Wilson Stadium) panorama, September 2014.