Buffalo Bills share renderings for new Populous-designed stadium

“The (New) Ralph”

Buffalo Bills share renderings for new Populous-designed stadium

(Courtesy Buffalo Bills)

It what has turned out to be a busy news week in the world of football stadium design, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills have unveiled renderings for their new home field. The stadia specialists at Populous have generated initial visuals for the new venue, which expresses the historical architecture of Buffalo in a design that fosters an “intimate yet intimidating” atmosphere according to the team.

The new stadium will be located directly across from the team’s current home at Highmark Stadium—known to fans simply as “The Ralph”, an homage to former owner Ralph Wilson—on Abbott Road in Orchard Park, a town southeast of Buffalo. The new arena will occupy a 57-acre property owned by SUNY Erie Community College, which formerly housed the college’s athletic fields. According to the team, other locations were considered for the new arena, including downtown Buffalo, however, placing the complex closer to the city center would have required relocating residents.

The NFL franchise also considered renovating its existing facilities and in 2021 hired local firm DiDonato Associates to inspect it. The findings published in a report deemed the stadium safe for the time being, but outlined structural and mechanical issues that would require upgrading at a later date.

This isn’t the first time the Bills has moved locations. The team first played in the War Memorial Stadium opened in 1960, which was partially demolished in 1989, when the team moved to its current venue. It is now used for hosting amateur sporting events.

Renderings shared by the Bills show the new stadium in a fittingly snowy scene, featuring a bowl-shaped form clad with large glass panels and decorative, rich colored stonework in an obvious nod to the city’s wealth of landmark buildings. Also pictured is a central plaza anchored by the installation of three life-size buffalo sculptures.

football field rendering
(Courtesy Buffalo Bills)

“The exterior stadium image highlights the team’s desire for a visual identity that reflects some of the historical architecture of Buffalo, while also delivering a modern appearance,” the team described in the announcement.

Plans to construct the new sports arena were first announced in March by New York Governor Kathy Hochul. The scheme calls for the demolition of the current Bills home field, which would be replaced by a parking lot serving the new stadium.

Similar to its predecessor, a feature of the new stadium is its open top, a notable architectural choice given the region’s notoriously cold and snowy winters. To accommodate for the lack of a cover over the arena, there will be radiant heating installed throughout.

Additionally, the seating has been arranged in a stacked design so that each tier remains shielded from rain and snow. This seating arrangement is also noise canceling, with the sound of cheering fans reduced to a minimum at field level. As for seating capacity, the proposed venue will seat less fans than Highmark Stadium: a total of 62,000, down from just over 71,000. With this design, the Bills intend to create an experience for fans that is both “intimate” and “intimidating.”

“Throughout the project, the team has thought carefully about how to maximize the experience of every fan, bringing fans closer to the action than any other new NFL stadium — this will truly be a football experience unlike any other. The goal is to create the most vibrant, loudest, ground-shaking experience possible,” the team added in its announcement.

Earlier this year, the Bills signed a partnership with sports and entertainment management company Legends to work as project manager and sales and marketing agent to help design the new facilities and to coordinate naming agreements for the stadium and its various venues.

The new stadium is estimated to cost $1.4 billion. The Buffalo Bills anticipate the first kickoff in the new stadium for fall 2026, with the hopes that the new digs will also help the franchise to secure its very first Super Bowl win.