Looking to continue growing fan support north of the border, the Buffalo Bills have begun discussions with officials from the Rogers Centre to keep playing annual games in Toronto.
Both Bills owner Ralph Wilson and the NFL hope the team continues playing a game in Canada because it helps generate attention about the sport outside of the United States. The league also hosts an annual game in the United Kingdom in London.
“Oh yeah, we want to renew it,” Wilson said late last week during a press conference. “We were talking to [Rogers Centre officials] recently, and they want to renew it. I think that Buffalo can have a very successful franchise embracing Rochester, Buffalo and Toronto as we move forward.”
In October, the Bills shutout the Washington Redskins 23-0 in front of a crowd of just over 51,000 fans at the Rogers Centre. Capacity for the stadium is 54,000.
The annual game started in 2008, and it has helped the team sell more season tickets to Canadian fans. But Wilson acknowledged that ticket prices for the game have been too expensive at an average cost of $180 per seat.
For the 2012 Toronto game, the team will likely drop prices, though the new amount has not yet been determined. Additionally, the date and opponent have not yet been announced.
“Right now our focus would be making what we’ve done here with the Bills playing the one game in Toronto successful,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the Associated Press in October during a visit to Buffalo. “The more we work on that, and focus on that, makes it even better for this market and for Toronto, because for us, it’s all one region.”
According to at least one Canadian broker, the annual Bills game in Toronto has been a disappointment for the secondary market.
“Bills in Toronto games have all been terrible for brokers,” Mario Livich, owner of ShowTime Tickets, told TicketNews. “A combination of over-priced tickets and low fan interest has resulted in tickets selling for well below cost price. We were happy to be finished with this series, and won’t be buying any more tickets.”
The Bills have struggled on the field in recent years, which has affected ticket sales, along with the weak economy. This season started out strong for the team, but a mid-year collapse will keep them out of the playoff picture again.