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World-shaping events have taken place since the Buffalo Bills kicked off in Rich Stadium 25 years ago and Herb Mulkey returned the ball 102 yards for a Redskins touchdown. Six presidents have presided over Washington.

But in Palm Beach, Fla., Bills owner Ralph Wilson whines about losing the naming rights to a taxpayer-built stadium.

In Detroit, Bills treasurer Jeff Littmann carps to The News about commercialization. Echoing the public position of his boss, Littmann says a proper stadium name should "have something to do with the area."

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo, Rich Products has certainly met that criterion. Twenty-five years ago, Rich was the only company to answer the Chamber of Commerce's call and make a bona fide cash offer to name the stadium, helping to pay for the construction of the building.

Although Rich Products has grown tremendously, it has always kept its local roots, where it employs more people than any other privately held company. Furthermore, the Rich family has repeatedly turned down offers to sell out and has never threatened to leave the area if it didn't get what it wanted.

Mr. Wilson should be happy. New York State and Erie County have committed a king's ransom to refurbish One Bills Drive. The fans are paying an arm and a leg to attend games.

Now Mr. Wilson can rename the place Erie County Stadium, as he says he always wanted to do.

This doesn't make sense. Why not sell the naming rights again and use the money, as Tampa did, to improve the team on the field or give some relief to the local taxpayers?


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