The Highmark stadium is the home ground for the professional American football team, Buffalo Bills. This stadium was established in Orchard Park, New York, and is situated in the Southtown of the Buffalo metropolitan area.
The Bills play their home games in this venue, and the owner of this stadium is Erie County.
The Highmark stadium, also known as Rich Stadium, or Ralph Wilson stadium, and then, later on, Bills Stadium, is a football stadium in the suburbs of Buffalo in New York. This is a venue for American football team home games, Buffalo Bills of the NFL. When we attended college just outside of Buffalo, it was called Rich Stadium. That is what all of my friends and family refer to it as.
The Highmark stadium opened in 1973 when the Buffalo Bills were looking for other venues to relocate the team after the War Memorial stadium went into disrepair and couldn’t hold more than 47,000 people.
As Highmark stadium was called back then, the Rich Stadium opened in 1973, and Frank Schoenle and his company eventually built it.
Rich Products, a buffalo-based foods company, signed a $1.5 million deal, due to which the stadium was called “Rich Stadium.” The stadium was later renamed in honor of Ralph Wilson in 1998.
In 2016, the New Era Cap Company and Buffalo Bills reached a $35 million seven-year agreement for the naming rights. On August 18, 2016, both parties officially announced the new name of the stadium, New Era Field.
Another agreement on July 15, 2020, announced that New Era Cap has opted to be released from the naming rights and sponsorship deal, and the two parties agreed to terminate the contract. The stadium was only referred to as “the stadium” in this contract, and all references to New Era were removed from the Bills’ website.
In a 2012 lease agreement, Erie County announced themselves as legal stadium owners and that they will approve any new name given to the location. The Erie County executive also rejected the naming rights bid by a mini toilets maker, Tushy Bidets. He announced that a name that embarrasses the stadium and its community would not be considered.
On August 20, the Buffalo Bills teams announced they would temporarily use “Bills Stadium” as the stadium’s name until they could find another naming rights partner.
The team announced in March 2021 that the new name would be “Highmark stadium,” shortly after reaching an agreement with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Design of Highmark Stadium
The Highmark stadium is an open-air stadium having a capacity of 71,870 spectators. AstroTurf was always used in the stadium, which never held natural grass.
A lease negotiation between the Erie County, Buffalo Bills, and the New York State in December 2012 resulted in the Bills signing a ten years lease to stay in Buffalo till 2023. This agreement included a $130 million requirement for improvements to New Era Field. The renovations would consist of new entrance gates having a larger size, HD sponsor boards, expanded concessions, redesign of multiple areas of the stadium, and two new HD video boards.
A life-sized statue of the founder Ralph Wilson was also installed outside the team store.
Buffalo contributed to its position as the windiest city in the nation. This feature makes Highmark stadium a problematic location for the placekickers who struggle with swirling winds. The problem is much triggered by the Highmark stadium’s design, as its open end parallels the prevailing wind’s direction. This design causes the wind to come into the stadium and immediately drop down into its bowl, which is credited for the signature wind patterns of Highmark stadium.
Amenities and Facilities
1. Secure Digital Ticketing
NFL is moving towards mobile ticketing as it is considered the most convenient, flexible, and safest method to receive and manage tickets. This method increased protection and safety against fraud, and mobile or digital tickets provide an easy and quick entry into Highmark stadium and instant access to tickets for all seasons.
People can quickly sell or transfer their tickets anytime, reducing the risk of stolen, forgotten, counterfeit, or lost tickets. This method is also a step contributing to using less printing paper for a sustainable environment.
2. Accessibility Services
The Highmark stadium has designated accessible parking for handicapped guests. The accessible parking spaces are available but require a permit or proper plates, and the parking spaces are allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Vehicles parked in accessible spaces without proper parking placards are subjected to towing and fined. Throughout the 100-level stadium, accessible wheelchair platforms are located, and wheelchair seating tickets are required.
3. Entry and Permitted Items
The entry gates are opened 2 hours before kickoff, and visitors are requested to remove cameras or phones while walking through metal detection screens. Only bags made of clear plastic or vinyl are allowed into the facility.
Small clutches or bags which may or may not have a strap are allowed and can be carried alongside the clear plastic bags. The seat cushions inside must not contain metal backs, flaps, or pockets and should not exceed 15″ * 15″ in size. IPads, tablet devices, and cameras having lenses shorter than 6 inches are allowed.
Parking lots are cashless, and only credit cards are accepted. The Highmark stadium parking lots open almost four hours before kickoff and close approximately one hour after the game. The parking spaces are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, and all those vehicles that do not follow the instructions of parking staff and team members will be towed or fined.
Reservation of parking for guests is not allowed, and additional parking spaces cannot be purchased.
Highmark Stadium as an Inclusive Sensory Space
The Buffalo Bills fans with sensory processing disorders like PTSD or autism will be provided an inclusive sensory bag in case of a sensory episode.
The bag includes various items like a lanyard, fidget toys, mesh tubes, stress balls, and visual cue cards. They are available at Guest Service Booths at the stadium; if the guests present their license, they can rent it for free.