CEO: Bills to review Toronto future
Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon said Wednesday he will "review" the future of the team's annual Toronto game after it lost Sunday for the fifth time in the six years it's played in Canada.
"There's a full evaluation that will take place on all of our business relative to what this series means, and I'm going to look at it very closely," Brandon told WGR 550 in Buffalo.
The Bills have played an annual game at Rogers Centre since 2008. The team signed a new five-year deal earlier this year, but when asked Wednesday about whether the team could "get out" of the agreement, Brandon hinted at the possibility.
"I'm going to look at everything," he said. "I'll leave it at that."
The Bills have viewed the game in Toronto as a way to "regionalize" their brand, but the overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday drew only 38,969, the smallest crowd in the game's six-year history. Rogers Centre lists its capacity as 46,470 (not including luxury suite seats).
"Toronto has been positive for us down here," Brandon said. "We've had great growth in the southern Ontario marketplace over the last five years back here at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That has been a big positive. [But] it has been a challenged market there and certainly has not translated into enough wins for us there."
By playing one of their home games in Toronto, the Bills play just seven games per season at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Brandon said Wednesday that selling out the 40-year-old venue has been difficult this season.
"It's also about being viable. That's one of the things that we've talked about for many years here. Look at it from the standpoint from where we've been on the ticket side. We've taken a game out of the market that has essentially taken 70,000 seats out of our market, and we've truly only sold out two of our home games," Brandon said. "We've manufactured sellouts in the other four or five. We're trying to find ways to obviously keep this team viable and we've done a very good job, and this [Toronto] series has obviously contributed to that."
Four of the six Toronto games have been played in December, when the Bills -- who haven't made the postseason since 1999 -- have typically been out of the playoff hunt.
"We've got to put ourselves in a position where we're selling games out no matter what," Brandon said. "I want to play and I know our fans want to play deep December games here at Ralph Wilson," Brandon said. "And we obviously want to have every seat in this stadium sold. Sellouts drive your business. They drive all aspects of your business."
The Bills (4-8) play their home finale on Dec. 22 against the Miami Dolphins, and Brandon said Wednesday that 20,000 tickets remain for the game.
"I don't feel good about it," he said. "That's a long way to go in two weeks."
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