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Ranking NFL venues, the Stadium Journey way

bills
From time to time, you can find in your news feed some article trumping out “the best NFL stadium” or “Ranking the best and worst”. If you’re a stadium enthusiast, these will always make for interesting reads.

But in many cases, they’re also nonsense. And downright embarrassing at times, none more so than an article of this type that actually made it to the pages of USA Today this past October. Look closely and you’ll find that the misinformed writer assigned no actual scoring or metrics to his choices of what he deems to be the best, and the worst, stadium in the NFL, and everything in between. For example, NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, came in at 17th. Why, you wonder? The writer states, “My goodness is that a horrible name for a stadium, though I guess coming from a city that once had Enron Field, it could be worse.” That’s it. That’s all. So there you go.

Then there’s Stadium Journey.

If you haven’t heard of this media entity, you’re missing out. With a phalanx of writers scattered throughout North America and even beyond, the site is an aggregate of helpful and interesting information about sports venues everywhere. I have been affiliated with Stadium Journey for a number of years, keeping tabs on our sports palaces close to home, and from time to time, submitting profiles gleaned from our Ultimate Sports Road Trip travels.

stadiumjourney-193x67Stadium Journey has just released its annual rankings of the 31 NFL Stadiums and the experiences they offer. But unlike some of the write ups you stumble across, these rankings come to you thanks to the painstaking evaluation and review of writers from each of the cities that are profiled. Most of them have stellar credentials as accomplished sports travel enthusiasts, possess superior writing skills, and take the business of scoring and presenting their venue very seriously. Additionally, all the stadiums are re visited and re scored at the minimum of once every two years, so that information and data is fresh and relevant.

My contribution to this year’s roster of NFL venues and their scores is our very own Ralph Wilson Stadium. The longtime home of the Buffalo Bills landed at 19th of 31 once the scores were tallied. What places The Ralph at this level, being an aging though still (barely) functional stadium is the incredible tailgating scene, one of the absolute best in the NFL. Secondly, Buffalo’s unofficial anthem, the beloved Shout song, has endured for three decades and is as much a part of Buffalo as the chicken wing. What sunk Buffalo’s score is the location, sitting amidst 200 acres of asphalt in a manicured suburb, and the lack of access by anything other than private transportation.

And this year’s (returning) champ? Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. And why not! With a superb location on the edge of a bustling downtown core, endless pre and post game food, drink and entertainment options, a building with a retractable roof and retractable end zone wall, abundant space for tailgating, and suitable for a myriad of events far beyond 10 days of football. Indianapolis’ gleaming playpen offers exactly the template for Buffalo’s future stadium plans, and they managed to fund and build it at a comparatively reasonable cost.

So there you have it. Click on the rankings, then click through to your favorite stadium and check out everything from the food to the tailgating to the prices to the extras. It’s a fun site to visit again and again.

Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell cover the NHL Buffalo Sabres and AAA Buffalo Bisons for Artvoice


Bills Voice: Fredex’d? Reaction to Jackson’s comments about his roster spot.

Welcome to Bills Voice a new blog on Artvoice.com featuring input and analysis of all things Buffalo Bills. Don’t miss at the end of each post where we will put a Fantasy Football spin on everything covered.

written by Peter Soscia

Photo courtesy of Syracuse.com (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

There was quite a bit of reaction from both fans and media members last week when Bills running back Fred Jackson commented on his roster status for this season during a radio interview with The Howard Simon Show. When asked if he was worried about his roster spot Jackson responded with: “We’ve got to compete every year. This year’s no different than any other year, I’ve got to go out and compete just like any other year.” A lot of the reaction on social media may have led you to believe that Jackson is worried about his future in Buffalo, but that was a pretty vanilla response that Jackson has probably given every offseason since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent when he actually was competing to make rosters.

While it seems that Jackson’s roster spot is safe for 2015, at least one of the five running backs currently on the Bills roster will not be by the start of the season, and at 34, it would not be shocking if Jackson was the odd man out.

The Bills currently have LeSean McCoy, Boobie Dixon, Karlos Williams, Bryce Brown, and Jackson in their RB stable. It’s not unheard of for a roster to carry five RBs, but that won’t be the case with the Bills adding fullback Jerome Felton this offseason. McCoy is a lock for the roster as the feature back, Dixon and his bruising running style bring a different look compared to McCoy and his special teams play make him likely safe on the roster. That leaves Jackson, Williams, and Brown. It’s pretty easy to say Jackson is most talented back on the team behind McCoy, and it seems unlikely for the Bills to spend a 5th round draft pick on Williams only to have him cut in training camp. This leaves Brown on the outs. 

This is the most likely scenario, and it would be the best case for the Bills as well. Jackson had over 1,000 total yards last season, is a great pass blocker, and not to mention a great leader. With all of the new additions over the last year from ownership, coaching staff, to players, it is important for the team to have a locker room presence that has been through it all with the team and the city like Jackson has. 

Despite best case scenarios, Jackson will stop defying Father Time eventually. If that happens this season, and Bryce Brown finally pulls it together and displays some of this potential that made him the number college recruit out of high school, it may be mean the end to career in Buffalo that was almost unimaginable eight years ago when Jackson joined the Bills.

Fantasy Spin: In the past you either love or you hate Fred Jackson depending on whether you owned him or CJ Spiller/Marshawn Lynch. No matter how good the other back was projected to be at the start of season in the end Jackson was the Bills RB you wanted to own (Expect in 2012 when Jackson was actually projected as the starter, but got hurt and CJ Spiller had his best season.) With that in mind I still like LeSean McCoy a lot this season, and Jackson could hold some value if the Bills end up running the ball as much as we think they will. I wouldn’t want Jackson starting in my week 1 lineup, but I’d draft him as a low end flex/ RB 4 with upside if he can stay healthy.


A Revealing Peek at the NFL

Cover your eyes, kids!

Cover your eyes, kids!

As we learn about revived talks to designate hundreds of millions of public dollars to eventually build  a new stadium here for the Buffalo/Toronto Bills, let’s take a moment to look at the most recent tax forms filed by that struggling not-for-profit organization known as the National Football League, located at 345 Park Avenue, New York, NY. Click here to see their new office. Pretty modest, in keeping with the charitable nature of their endeavor.

NFL 2011 990

By clicking the above link, you can read on page 7 how commissioner Roger Goodell had to get by on just under $30 million in 2011. Not bad for a 40-hour work week. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue made $8.5 million putting in a grueling zero-hour work week the same year. Over 300 others at this charity made more than $100,000 in 2011. That doesn’t include players or coaches or anything like that—just folks in suits.

Also in 2011, the NFL spent $36 million with JT Magen & Company to build the new office. Another independent contractor charged them $13.5 million for office rent. Bank of America and American Express each charged them over $6.5 million for financial and travel services, respectively. 152 other independent contractors received over $100,000 each from the largesse of this compassionate 501c6 organization.

Kinda makes your head spin.

Here are a couple more NFL 990s to consider, if you’re into that kinda stuff (NSFW!):

NFL 2010 990

NFL 2009? 990


Shiny new NFL stadiums in peer cities

stadium
It’s been almost a year now since the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex unveiled their vision for a new stadium which would be largely privately financed and be situated smack dab on the lake’s edge in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

Since that time, Erie County, the State and the Buffalo Bills partnered up and got a new lease done, which will assure that the team stays here for at least 7 and up to 10 years. Ralph Wilson Stadium will be seeing all sorts of upgrades during the coming offseason, which fans will get to experience come 2014. It comes with a hefty price tag, but it also buys this community time in term of coming up with a long term plan to keep the Buffalo Bills here in perpetuity.

Nicholas Strascick and George Hasiotis, the principals behind the GBSEC, deserve every bit of gratitude and plaudits from the stakeholders and citizens of this area for moving this debate forward. They invested substantial sums to retain a world class architect (HKS Sports) and come up with a preliminary design. They have lobbied mightily at all levels of government to try and secure a time sensitive land option on the Outer Harbor property. And if the vision and the proposed site as depicted eventually falls by the wayside, the people in this community can do the proper due diligence to find the appropriate alternative.

In three other NFL markets, either construction and/or plans are proceeding nicely for new stadiums which will further raise the bar on architecture and design, fan amenities, technology and functionality. Here is the rundown:

SAN FRANCISCO
49ersstadium

Construction is proceeding at a brisk pace on Levi’s Stadium, the new home for the San Francisco 49ers, to replace the aging and generally horrible Candlestick Park, one of oldest and most decrepit stadiums in the league. Set to open in 2014, this building is situated 38.3 miles from San Francisco and actually closer to San Jose, giving this franchise a true regional footprint. It will be the home venue for Super Bowl L (that’s “50”) in 2016.

MINNESOTA
minnesota
Ground is being broken for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, with the opening set in time for the 2016 NFL season. So where will this facility be located? Right where their current stadium, Mall of America Field (nee Metrodome), is now. In fact, some site work will get underway shortly, and as soon as the current season is concluded, the current stadium will be demolished, and the Vikings will spend two seasons playing at TCF Bank Field on the University of Minnesota campus while their new playpen goes up.

ATLANTA
Just this past week the Atlanta Falcons unveiled new renderings and design concepts for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.

atlantaf

The Falcons also plan to build their new facility on the footprint of the current Georgia Dome, which would be razed to make room for the new stadium. They plan to raise the bar with electronics and LED technology to dazzle the senses, including a massive “halo” 360 degree video board crowning the circular retractable roof opening, as well as a football field length HD board running along the main concourses. If all goes to plan, their new stadium will open in time for the 2017 NFL season.

For sake of time comparisons here, both Mall of America Field opened in 1982 and the Georgia Dome opened in 1993, while Buffalo rolled out what was then named Rich Stadium in 1973. When San Francisco opens their new field next season, that will leave Buffalo and Oakland as having the two oldest stadiums in the National Football League.

Let the community debate continue.