A day after announcing they will play all eight of their regular-season home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2014, the Buffalo Bills revealed how much it will cost season-ticket holders.
The team announced Thursday that prices for a 10-game season-ticket package – two preseason games and eight that count – range from $260 for a seat in the upper deck (300 Level V) to $3,100 for a spot in the Time Warner Cable Business Class Club.
It’s the first time since 2010 the team has raised season-ticket prices, an increase it called “modest” in a statement. In 2013, season tickets ranged from $225 to $720 in regular seating areas and $1,278 to $2,790 for a club seat. This year, club seats range from $1,470 to $3,100.
Season-ticket holders were already going to pay more in 2014. Wednesday, the Bills and Rogers Communications announced their agreement to play one regular-season game per year in Toronto’s Rogers Centre was being postponed for the 2014 season, meaning all eight games will be held at The Ralph for the first time since 2007.
Digging deeper into their pockets to pay for an extra game as opposed to seeing it shipped off to Canada is a trade-off most fans on social media have seemed willing to make.
“I’ve seen a couple people say, ‘Well, now we have to pay for eight games.’ Well, we always used to have to pay for eight games,” said Del Reid, a season-ticket holder and co-founder of the popular fan group The Bills Mafia, which has more than 24,000 Twitter followers. “The price – it is what it is. Everything goes up.”
Reid admitted to “accepting a lot of what comes out of One Bills Drive” but could never stomach the Toronto series.
“I just can’t reconcile it,” he said of giving away the home-field advantage that comes with playing in The Ralph. “It’s embarrassing.”
Here are a few examples of the price increases: In 2013, a ticket on the 50-yard line in the first 20 rows of the upper deck, say section 312, cost $70 per game ($630 for nine games in the season). This year, the same ticket costs $75 ($750 for a 10-game schedule). A seat in the family corner, sections 224-227, cost $30 per game in ’13 ($270 for the season); it has risen to $35 this year ($350 for the season). Want to sit in the lower bowl between the 30-yard lines? Last year, that cost $720, $80 for nine games. This year, it averages $90 over 10 games, $900 for the season.
The Bills also announced Thursday that they will debut a variable ticket-pricing plan for preseason and regular-season games. Details of the variable pricing have not yet been announced, but the formula is likely to factor heavily the attractiveness of the opponent and when the game is played. In other words, expect to pay less in December than you will in September. “The goal of variable pricing is to create a pricing structure that best reflects the market demand for all games,” Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon said in a team statement.
Variable pricing is not new in Western New York professional sports – the Buffalo Sabres have used it since 2004 – but 2014 will be the first time it’s used in the NFL. The Detroit Lions and New England Patriots are among the teams that have previously announced similar plans.
The price of a season ticket – of which there are 12 categories to choose from in regular seating categories and another eight in club sections – will not change based on the variable-pricing plan, but the cost based on the variable tier will be reflected on the ticket.
For example, the home opener may be valued at $100 for season-ticket holders, while a December home game may be $60. According to the Bills, season tickets will be discounted from 15 to 50 percent compared with individual game tickets. Season-ticket holders will also receive discounts on parking, the team said, and invitations to private events.
Last season, the team sold 42,540 season tickets. Despite that base, and the fact the Bills have one of the lowest season-ticket prices in the NFL, they failed to sell out one game, and owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. bought up remaining tickets to two others to ensure they would air on local television. Capacity at Ralph Wilson Stadium is about 73,000.
Reid is confident that the team’s fans will support an extra home game – while also making it clear the team can help itself by dramatically improving the on-field product.
“We’ve been asking to get this Toronto game back. Now it’s on us,” he said. “The fans don’t have any excuses. The players don’t have any excuses. If we can start winning more than six games a year, then those tickets are going to move.”
Prices for individual game tickets and the announcement of the variable tiers will be announced after the NFL schedule comes out. That traditionally takes place in April. In addition to their traditional AFC East opponents, the Bills will host Green Bay, Minnesota, San Diego, Kansas City and Cleveland in 2014.