Bills new home ‘intimate but intimidating’


Buffalo Bills stadium update July 2022 Image: Buffalo Bills & WBFO

The new stadium of the National Football League (NFL) team Buffalo Bills (US) will look and feel a lot different from the current 50-year-old facility.

‘The Buffalo News’ stated that it will be “intimate but intimidating”, with a focus on getting fans as close to the action as possible, said Scott Radecic, a former Bills linebacker who’s serving as the Project Executive for Populous, the stadium’s architect.

The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football team based in the Buffalo metropolitan area. The Bills compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s American Football Conference East division. The team plays its home games at the Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, US.

The 71,608-capacity Highmark Stadium is a stadium in Orchard Park, New York, US, in the Southern portion of the Buffalo metropolitan area. The stadium opened in 1973 and is the home venue of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL).

The new facility of the Bills will have more levels than the current stadium.

‘The Buffalo News’ further stated that it will take up less land than the current stadium, but it will be bigger inside.

It will face in a different direction than the current stadium and change the approach to entering.

Those are some of the details that Populous revealed about the new stadium design during a public meeting held recently at the Bills’ fieldhouse in Orchard Park.

The architectural firm will design the new 1.35-million-square-foot facility with around 60,000 seats. The $1.4 billion stadium and surrounding parking lots will be on 242.5 acres of property, across the street from the current one on Abbott Road.

Remarked Radecic, “We want to really harness the energy of the Buffalo fans and create a unique gameday experience.”

Here’s how Populous proposes to do that:

Less seating capacity, more comfort: The new stadium may include around 10,000 less seats than the capacity at the current Highmark Stadium but it doesn’t mean the facility will be smaller.

The current stadium encompasses a little over 900,000 square feet. The new one will include about 450,000 additional square feet, or about 50 percent more space.

That extra space will be used to build larger concourses and deeper, wider and more comfortable seating.

Still, the footprint of the new stadium will be smaller at 730 feet wide (about 100 feet less than the Highmark Stadium) and 880 feet long (about 50 feet less). The idea is to help create an intimate setting for fans, with “amazing sightlines” and the potential for intimidating Bills’ opponents, Radecic informed.

He added, “I know our owner has said that he wants every team that comes to play in this stadium to say, ‘I hate going to Buffalo to play’ and that’s what we’re trying to do from a design standpoint.”

Multiple levels and concourses: The new stadium will have more levels than the Highmark Stadium, with multiple concourses for service levels, Press levels and other levels.

The stands will be stacked, making the stadium steeper and higher. The highest part of Highmark Stadium is about 140 feet above grade, while the new stadium will be 50 feet higher, featuring a partial canopy overtop to help protect as many fans as possible from weather elements, such as rain, snow and wind.

Stadium orientation to shift: The layout of the proposed new facility is rotated 25 degrees from the current configuration, to create a more North-Northwest orientation for the building, helping with the sun and other elements that can affect a game and the fans attending it. The stadium’s current orientation is more East-West.

It also will create a smoother entry point abutting Abbott Road.

More dynamic entrances: Plans call for a more prominent approach to the stadium, with a Northeast promenade to make entry into the facility easier and a more unique experience.

It will make for dramatic views of the stadium and create “Instagramable moments”, Radecic said.

A clear path to the stadium: Populous also is looking at how to create a more defined path for arriving and departing fans to follow by aligning pedestrian paths through the parking areas to the stadium without having people just converging to enter the facility.

Green space will radiate from the stadium to the South and East, with a long strip of landscaped median and walkways extending to the Southwestern corner of the site.

Also, an auxiliary maintenance and equipment building will be constructed on the property, taking up about 60,000 to 75,000 square feet of space.

A lot of work to do: While the major perimeters for the design have been established, the firm, which has designed 14 NFL stadiums, is early in the process, which will take about 12 to 15 months to complete, said Kelly Kearns, a Senior Principal at Populous.

But even if the design is not completely done in time for the start of construction, it doesn’t mean that work can’t get underway on the building of the new stadium in the Spring, as the team hopes, Kearns added. Plans call for construction to be completed by the start of the 2026 season.

When construction is completed, the current stadium will be demolished with the space used for parking. It will add to what will be around 10,500 stadium parking spaces, which are almost 1,000 more than the current team’s lots offer.

Plenty of cooks in the kitchen: Populous is far from the only consultant or Governmental agency working on elements of the new stadium and the upcoming review process and environmental analysis that will include several months of study in advance of the county transferring property for the Bills new stadium to the State. The team’s 30-year stadium lease will be overseen by the State agency Erie County Stadium Corp.

There are at least 40 potential interested and involved agencies and consultants taking part in this project. Some of them include:

  • The Erie County Department of Environmental Planning, which will manage the day-to-day process of actions that need to take place to get the stadium built, starting with the funding, permitting and transfer of the property;
  • The law firm of Phillips Lytle has been retained by the county to oversee the environmental review process;
  • Engineering and design services firm WSP, as part of the Populous team, will conduct a traffic and parking assessment, looking at the existing conditions of both and comparing them to what they would be like with the moving of the stadium to the West side of Abbott Road;
  • Popli Design Group, an architectural, engineering, land surveying, and construction services firm out of Rochester, Indiana, US, will provide the county technical assistance in the review of the traffic impact and assessment;
  • CC Environment & Planning, an environmental consulting firm in Batavia, Illinois, US, will evaluate the site for natural resources, including wetlands, streams and drainages, and listed species and habitats;
  • Architectural and engineering firm LaBella Associates in Buffalo will evaluate the public utility infrastructure, review stormwater, domestic water and fire service, sanitary sewers, and natural gas service;
  • Carmina Wood Design, an architectural, engineering and design firm in Buffalo, will review on behalf of the county the water, sanitary and stormwater design and coordinate with the local entities that control those utilities; and
  • Other reviews being conducted center around lighting and noise analysis, hazard material assessments, geological investigations, and geotechnical engineering.

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