Bills owners sell naming rights to publicly owned stadium, pocket cash

The Buffalo Bills owners have sold the naming rights to Ralph Wilson Stadium for an undisclosed sum to New Era Cap Company, and immediately took down the lettering with the old name:

This made many Bills fans unhappy that the stadium will no longer be named for the team’s founding owner:

We’ve seen this before in other cities, of course. What’s odd here is that Ralph Wilson Stadium isn’t the building’s original name: From 1973 to 1997 it was Rich Stadium, named for a local food company in one of the first naming-rights deals in pro sports. When that deal expired and Rich Products wouldn’t agree to an increased rights fee, Erie County instead named it after the Bills’ owner.

Wilson died in 2014, and somewhere along the way, so did the county’s ownership of the naming rights, as it appears new owners Terry and Kim Pegula will be pocketing whatever cash comes from this deal, even though Erie County still owns the building. It seems like that’d be more worth getting upset over, but there’s no accounting for football fans.


14 comments on “Bills owners sell naming rights to publicly owned stadium, pocket cash

  1. I noticed on last night’s episode of Ballers on HBO, Dwayne Johnson said, “…and they’re building a new stadium” when talking about Buffalo. Very credible source. Waiting on NYT to print LOL

  2. 100% of the value in sponsoring the Bills’ stadium is derived from the fact that NFL games are played there. Now, I realize that Neil and many others are not big fans of successful people and entities receiving fair pay for their work (that is, until ‘The Brooklyn Wars’ becomes an iconic, required scholastic reading on the gentrification of indigenous urban areas, thus making Neil rich beyond his wildest imaginations), but for the waning number of us who don’t believe in state-sponsored confiscation, this is good news.

    • 100% of the value of my apartment comes from the fact that people live in it, but I’m still not allowed to sell naming rights to my living room window.

    • More great stuff, Ben!

      How much would you say a football stadium is worth to a city in cash flow? A good guess would be the “undisclosed sum” plus event taxes. So as an ROE–basically nothing!

        • Another rich argumeny–don’t hurt your back with all these contortions!

          1. Are you suggesting that NFL teams should be considered a luxury for cities? Changes the metric a bit.

          2. The stadium renovations are justified by sports fans as a necessity to have a valuable franchise. Then according to you the team should get paid to play in the stadium that the city paid for because otherwise the stadium would be worthless? Interesting!

          • It’s not a contortion. Nobody is dumb enough to believe that the purpose of government is to turn a profit. Thus, I summarily reject all anti-stadium arguments that are based on stadiums not turning a profit for government.

            I have no clue what you’re trying to say in the second part of your argument. The Bills’ stadium’s naming rights would be worthless without the Bills. The Bills, and many other franchises in mid-major markets, would likely leave if the government decided to provide no stadium INFRASTRUCTURE (an actual purpose of government) for them.

          • Nobody thinks that government is supposed to lose money by handing over assets to private businesses for no good reason, though. I mean, *some* people do, sure, but most of them are in jail now.

    • Hi Ben,

      100% of the Bills games would have to be played elsewhere, if at all, if they were not played in the publicly owned stadium.

      • And in that case the naming rights would’ve sold for approximately zero dollars. Which is my point.

  3. It’s not state sponsored confiscation when the state is compensated for selling an asset (naming rights) that is owns. And it’s bad business when the state gives away a money generating asset (like naming rights) for free or below market. We all think that the government should run more like a business, right?

  4. If NFL teams pay for the building of their own stadiums, they can name them whatever they like. If a state, county, or city pays, well…