Bills Fans Still Split Over Changes at the Ralph

9:32 PM, Sep 2, 2011   |    comments
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Growing pains continue after a second week of changes to traffic and tailgating at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills and the Erie County Sheriff's Department put in place changes meant to get fans in and out of the parking lots faster, while also improving pedestrian safety. But fans are still split.

The biggest changes to traffic was the closing of Abbott Road in front of the stadium. This allowed pedestrians to go from the lots to the game; but it also caused headaches for some tailgaters like David Duncan from Waterloo, Ontario.

He was forced to move his tailgate from one lot to another.

"Now we can't get there," Duncan said. "Because we have to go around the back, and it's adding time onto our day."

The Sheriff's Department said it "tweaked" some of its plans, mainly by installing more signage to educate fans about the traffic changes.

"It's a lot nicer this week where they had the signs up at the end up on (Route) 20 showing that Abbott was closed," Jim Meier, a fan from Rochester, said.

Although some fans still seemed confused before and after Thursday night's final pre-season game, deputies believe, with time, fans will become aware of the changes.

The closing of Abbott Road is also affecting local businesses along the normally busy stretch. One convenience store owner told 2 On Your Side the change has "destroyed" his business. He said in 15 years, he has never seen so few people come in and out, because they're all directed away from Abbott.

The bigger issue for fans has been changes to tailgating. In two of their lots, the Bills now require cars to pull in one after another, called "Disney-style" parking. That makes it difficult for fans to tailgate together unless they pull into the lot together.

For Duncan and his group of 34 season ticket holders, it will make partying together all the more difficult. He also points out it could cause more problems, because fans won't know who will be tailgating right next door.

"People who are over-indulging... (are) aybe going to be parked right beside them," Duncan said. "So you can't even control that, which I think might cause a bit of problems."

Meier sees the flip side, a safer pre-game party.

"You don't have to worry about somebody running up and down the aisle looking for their friends," Meier said. It's real nice. You can set up, and you don't have to worry about anything."

Back to traffic, it emptied nicely out of the stadium parking lots, but this was a poorly-attended, Thursday night, pre-season game. The true test will be September 18, when the Bills host their regular season home opener against the Raiders.

The Bills and the Sheriff's Department both say they will continue to tweak all their changes to better the game-day experience.

If you would like to learn more about the traffic changes, you can check out a detailed map from the Bills Web site.

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