New Era Field
Over its long history, the home of the Buffalo Bills — now known as New Era Field after a 2016 name change — has been through quite a bit.
From the home team’s heyday of the early 1990s, when it reached four straight Super Bowls, to the lean years of the late 2000s and early 2010s, the stadium and Buffalo’s loyal fans have stood as a constant.
The venue is also the answer to a trivia question; it hosted the first NHL Winter Classic, back in 2008.
These days, the question is: How much longer will the old stadium be used? Talk of the team building a new stadium to replace it has persisted for years. Along with the name change from Ralph Wilson Stadium came a new nickname — “The Cap” — and a number of renovations that have gone a long way toward enhancing the spectator experience in what was already one of the more fun environments in the NFL.
- The Approach
Orchard Park, where New Era Field is located, is a suburb about 12 miles south of downtown Buffalo, but the stadium is not far from Interstate 90, which cuts through the city, as well as Route 219 aka the Pittsburgh-Buffalo Highway. From Route 219, exit at either Milestrip Road (Route 179) if you’re heading south on I-90 or Big Tree Road (Route 20A) if traveling north, then go east toward the stadium.
You can find more detailed driving directions here, but from our experience, traveling from the Buffalo airport, exiting Route 219 on Milestrip Road and heading east (against the gameday traffic flow), then turning right on Mid County Drive and right again onto Southwestern Boulevard, was a viable shortcut.
The venue is surrounded by large parking lots on both sides on Abbott Road, the main drag on the stadium’s west side. Most of the outer lots are open to the public; as of the 2019 season, general parking costs $30. Be forewarned that traffic between the stadium and I-90 can get gnarly as kickoff approaches and after games.
There are also plenty of nearby businesses willing to offer up spaces in their parking lots for fans, with the usual discount getting steeper the farther away the lot is from the stadium. The westbound approach on Southwestern Boulevard has quite a few options, ranging from medical offices and restaurants to a tire store and a guitar store.
If you don’t have a car, you can consider taking a taxi or rideshare, but from downtown Buffalo you’re looking at a rather hefty one-way cab fare. However, there is a shuttle service that runs to the stadium from various points around the region, including in neighboring Canada. Yes, plenty of fans come from across the border to see Bills games, and it’s not uncommon to see many cars with Ontario license plates in the parking lots.
- The Build-Up
Befitting its suburban locale, there isn’t that much to do in the immediate vicinity of the stadium other than a few mom-and-pop establishments — though they all have strong reputations as gameday hangouts. In particular, check out Big Tree Inn and Danny’s Buffalo Cuisine (both at the intersection of Abbott and Big Tree roads), and O’Neill’s Stadium Inn at Abbott and Southwestern Boulevard.
But even if you’re a one-time-only visitor, you owe it to yourself to walk around and check out a little bit of the tailgating scene around the stadium, which has been known to get elaborate and sometimes a little rowdy. If you’d like to set up your own tailgate party, the Bills have published a guide which can be found here.
The Bills also host a kid-friendly pregame party in their practice facility, the Adpro Sports Training Facility, on the south side of the stadium. And a portion of Abbott Road is closed to traffic pregame — it’s in this area where you can find the “Billevard,” with sponsor booths and food trucks.
- The Ambiance
Buffalo’s location at the eastern end of Lake Erie contributes to its reputation for having chilly, windswept days starting in the fall. It goes without saying that fans need to bundle up, particularly as it gets late in the football season, but die-hard Bills fans never use the weather as an excuse for not having a good time. So bring a nice, heavy coat, a scarf and a hat, and revel in what can often be a party atmosphere.
Entry gates can be found throughout the stadium’s perimeter but are most prominent on the west side, where the Bills Team Store is as well as a statue of Ralph Wilson, his right arm outstretched so that fans can walk up and shake his hand.
The statue and team store are part of an enlarged entry plaza that was a big component of the stadium’s most recent renovation, which also included two new videoboards on the east end. While the perimeter of the venue serves as the main concourse, most of the concession stands, bathrooms, etc. can be found within the stadium structure, with upper and lower levels. On cold, windswept days, you can find at least a little bit of shelter in these areas if you’re looking for a break from the weather conditions.
New Era Stadium’s concessions options were also revamped as part of the renovation. Among the purveyors that can be found there are Tim Hortons (donuts and coffee) and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. And it wouldn’t be a Buffalo venue if Buffalo wings weren’t available — Duff’s Famous Wings and La Nova operate stands around the stadium. Behind the east end zone bleachers, you can find the Miller Lite Brew Pub, offering a sports bar atmosphere where you can watch the game for a bit.
The seating bowl itself has a similar feel to a college stadium, with aluminum bleacher seating in all but the lower bowl sideline sections. The seating benches at least have divided backs so that individual seats are more clearly delineated. The upper decks are often where you can find the most spirited fans, who are at their loudest when the Bills score and the stadium PA fires up the team’s own rendition of the song “Shout,” allowing them to scream out, “Let’s go Buffalo!”
Note that in the upper decks on both sides, there is a concourse at the very top that have two sets of bathrooms each. There’s also limited standing-room viewing areas if you’re looking for a different vantage point or to stretch your legs a little. But be forewarned that not every aisle leads to this top concourse; a few lead to dead ends at the top, forcing you to walk across rows to get to the next aisle and the concourse.
1 Bills Drive
Orchard Park, NY 14127
All times local
Def Leppard with Motley Crue, Poison, and Joan Jett
Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Saturday, August 15, 2020
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