New Era Field
Over its long history, the home of the Buffalo Bills — now known as New Era Field after a 2016 name change — has been through quite a bit. From the home team’s heyday of the early 1990s, when it reached four straight Super Bowls, to the lean years of the late 2000s and early 2010s, the stadium and Buffalo’s loyal fans have stood as a constant. The venue is also the answer to a trivia question; it hosted the first NHL Winter Classic, back in 2008.
After recent renovations and the name change from Ralph Wilson Stadium, the old lady might be entering its final era, as discussions continue about building a new stadium for the Bills. Until that happens, the fans of western New York will continue trekking to Orchard Park to get their NFL fix.
- The Approach
Orchard Park, where New Era Field is located, is a suburb about 12 miles south of downtown Buffalo, but the stadium is not far from Interstate 90, which cuts through the city. Exit at either Milestrip Road (Route 179) if you’re heading south on I-90 or Big Tree Road (Route 20A) if traveling north, then go west toward the stadium. You can find more detailed driving directions here.
The venue is surrounded by large parking lots on both sides on Abbott Road, the main drag on the stadium’s west side. Most of the outer lots are open to the public; as of the 2015 season, general parking costs $25. Be forewarned that traffic between the stadium and I-90 can get gnarly as kickoff approaches and after games.
If you don’t have a car, your only other reliable option is to take a taxi, but from downtown Buffalo you’re looking at a rather hefty one-way fare.
- The Build-Up
Befitting its suburban locale, there isn’t that much to do in the immediate vicinity of the stadium other than a few mom-and-pop establishments — though they all have strong reputations as gameday hangouts. In particular, check out Big Tree Inn and Danny’s Buffalo Cuisine (both at the intersection of Abbott and Big Tree roads), and O’Neill’s Stadium Inn at Abbott and Southwestern Boulevard.
But even if you’re a one-time-only visitor, you owe it to yourself to walk around and check out a little bit of the tailgating scene around the stadium, which has been known to get elaborate and sometimes a little rowdy. If you’d like to set up your own tailgate party, the Bills have published a guide which can be found here.
The Bills also host a kid-friendly pregame party in their practice facility, the Adpro Sports Training Facility, on the south side of the stadium.
- The Ambiance
Buffalo’s location at the eastern end of Lake Erie contributes to its reputation for having chilly, windswept days starting in the fall. It goes without saying that fans need to bundle up, particularly as it gets late in the football season, but die-hard Bills fans never use the weather as an excuse for not having a good time. So bring a nice, heavy coat, a scarf and a hat, and revel in what can often be a party atmosphere.
Entry gates are throughout the stadium’s perimeter but most prominent on the west side, where the Bills Team Store is as well as a statue of Ralph Wilson, his right arm outstretched so that fans can walk up and shake his hand. The statue and team store are part of an enlarged entry plaza that was a big component of the stadium’s most recent renovation, which also included two new videoboards on the stadium’s east end.
New Era Stadium’s concessions options were also revamped as part of the renovation. Among the purveyors that can be found there are Tim Hortons (donuts and coffee) and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. And it wouldn’t be a Buffalo venue if Buffalo wings weren’t available — Duff’s Famous Wings and La Nova operate stands around the stadium.