You just knew this was coming....
Bills in talks to extend deal to play in Toronto beyond 2012
The Buffalo Bills have held talks to continue playing annual games in Toronto. Speaking from his home in suburban Detroit, Wilson said the Bills and Rogers Communications Inc. have held talks to renew the team's series north of the border, and is optimistic an extension will be reached before the current five-year deal expires after next season.
"Oh yeah, we want to renew it. We were talking to them recently, and they want to renew it," Wilson said. "I think that Buffalo can have a very successful franchise embracing Rochester, Buffalo and Toronto as we move forward."
Without going into specifics on the terms of a potential new deal, Wilson said one of Rogers' key conditions for renewing the agreement is lowering ticket prices. He said the Toronto-based communications giant acknowledged ticket prices had been too high, averaging around $180 US per seat.
The ticket prices led to series organizers having difficulty selling out games at the 54,000-seat Rogers Centre.
Reducing ticket revenue also has the potential of lowering the price tag of a new deal after Rogers paid $78 million to have the Bills play eight games, including five annual regular-season games.
The current deal expires after the Bills play a pre-season and regular-season game in Toronto next year.
A Rogers spokeswoman said the company had nothing to announce at this time. Rogers has previously expressed interest in renewing the deal, and was especially interested in adding an additional regular-season game if the NFL expanded its schedule.
The Bills' series in Toronto is regarded as crucial to the small-market franchise's future in western New York.
The deal was reached in 2008 with plenty of fanfare in making the Bills the NFL's only team to play annual games outside the United States. The Bills have benefited, gaining a boost in season-ticket sales from a growing base of fans from southern Ontario. Rogers has benefited, too, combining its NFL partnership with its numerous entities to capitalize on the league's popularity across Canada.
The NFL is on board in wanting to keep the series going. It not only plays into the league's attempt to globalize the sport, but is also considered key in keeping the small-market Bills viable in western New York.
"Right now our focus would be making what we've done here with the Bills playing the one game in Toronto successful," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a visit to Ralph Wilson Stadium in October. "The more we work on that and focus on that makes it even better for this market and for Toronto, because for us, it's all one region."
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