If the Buffalo Bills have your email address because you're a fan or current or former season ticket holder, check your inbox. Chances are you received a request to complete an online survey asking you to spend 10 to 15 minutes providing your thoughts on a new or renovated Bills stadium.
The survey is being undertaken by consultant CAA ICON, which is studying the potential for either renovating the Bills' New Era Field or building a new football stadium. The Denver consultant also will look into possible renovations at KeyBank Center, where the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits now play.
"As we said when we announced our study in November, we are actively pursuing feedback from our fans," Pegula Sports and Entertainment said in a statement about the survey. "We are currently conducting a survey to gain the insight of a wide cross section of fans."
The Bills-specific survey asks questions regarding fans' interest in professional and college sports, how often they buy tickets, their preferences for types of seating, interest in various stadium amenities, tailgating habits, tolerance for different price points in either a new or renovated stadium, and willingness to pay more for premium amenities.
It also asks whether the survey taker believes the Buffalo market would support either a new or renovated Bills stadium, and whether the survey taker would personally support a new stadium or renovated New Era Field. And it asks whether the survey taker would be willing to pay more for tickets at a new stadium rather than a renovated stadium.
The survey floats multiple pricing options for lower-level and upper-level seats and asks survey takers how likely they would be to buy season tickets at that price point. There were also questions about the willingness to purchase a personal seat license, or PSL, that would give the buyer rights for up to seven years to purchase season tickets for a particular seat or set of seats.
In November, Pegula Sports and Entertainment announced contracting with CAA ICON to look into stadium options for both the Bills and the Sabres, as lease deadlines approach, with the primary focus being on the Bills.
Bruce Popko, Pegula Sports and Entertainment's chief operating officer, said the study would be paid for by Pegula Sports & Entertainment and would be a first step toward determining the long-term homes for Buffalo's professional football and hockey teams. New Era Field is more than 40 years old, while KeyBank Center has been open for 23 years.
CAA ICON was expected to reach out to fans, including season ticket holders, and other major stakeholders as part of a study expected to take six to nine months.
Orchard Park resident Dan Niles, a club seat season ticket holder, who moved back to the region after spending roughly 20 years working in North Carolina, said he was glad the survey asked about big ideas.
"I’m tired of Buffalo always thinking small," said Niles, 53, who backs the idea of a new domed stadium downtown. "I want us thinking big, and there’s no reason why we can’t."
He also said he understood that big ideas don't come cheap, and he's willing to pony up the dough, including a PSL.
"When you think big, there are costs associated with that," he said.
Season ticket holders weren't the only ones sent a survey. So was Jay Reinhardt, 48, a former Jamestown resident who has lived in Colorado for the past 20 years but signed up for news alerts on the Bills website. Though he only manages to get to about one game a year, he said, he hopes to move back and has talked about going in on a set of season tickets with friends.
He was most impressed with the broad range of questions asked and expressed his strong support for more public gathering areas and wider concourses, he said.
"You can tell they really did a lot of research with other markets," he said.
Rick Kettell, a season ticket holder since 2003, echoed similar remarks about the breadth of the questionnaire. As a fan who drives six hours each way from his home in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, he was glad to see the Bills seriously considering renovating the existing stadium, not just building a new one elsewhere.
Aside from making it easier for people like him to get to and from the stadium, he said, he also considers it important not to price fans out of the market by building a new stadium for games that many fans wouldn't be able to afford.
"Buffalo has been very affordable," said Kettell, 64, a retired air traffic control senior manager originally from Rochester.
The consultant administering the survey is not being asked to recommend whether the Bills stadium should remain in Orchard Park or move to a different location, he said. Instead, it is being asked to provide information on all worthwhile options that all the major stakeholders will review before choosing a direction.
CAA ICON previously worked with Kim and Terry Pegula on the HarborCenter hotel and ice rink project next to KeyBank Center, and it also made recommendations on the upgrades to Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena.