ORCHARD PARK - Only six NFL stadiums are older than Ralph Wilson Stadium, which opened in 1973 and celebrated its 40th birthday this August.
The Ralph didn't receive any gifts for reaching that milestone, but at least it'll get a $130 million facelift when it turns 41. The Buffalo Bills released photos on Tuesday of the renovation plans for the 2014 season, which include everything from new scoreboards to bigger bathrooms to something called a "Super Gate."
"I think this renovation is going to get fans re-energized," said Marc Honan, the Bills' Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting. "This is all geared toward the fan."
On the exterior of the stadium, the renovations will expand the perimeter, add a new team store on the Abbott Street side and create the phenomenon known as the "super gates," which will give fans a lot of shiny toys to look at when they walk into the stadium. The new gates will include video boards with Bills' highlights, and they're designed to be large enough to facilitate a quicker entry process to the stadium for fans.
The Ralph will also feature a new "lounge" with beer and food, free Wi-Fi service for the fantasy football fans and new scoreboards on the east side of the stadium. Honan said those two new scoreboards will make life easier for fans on the west end, since right now they have to strain their necks to turn around and look at the current scoreboard. That scoreboard will also see its own improvements under the renovation plans.
"The new east end boards will make it very easy," Honan said. "It's a quick look up."
According to the Bills' website, the size of the restrooms will increase by 22 percent, and concession stands will see upgrades as well.
The $130 million project is mostly taxpayer-funded, with the state and Erie County combining to contribute close to 75 percent of the funding. The Bills will cover roughly 25 percent of the costs, according to Erie County Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo.
"We have one of the oldest stadiums in the league. And dare I say, this area could not afford a one-billion dollar price tag for a new stadium," Loffredo said. "So renovating that existing stadium was probably the only option we have."