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Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, USA

June 4th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Ralph Wilson Stadium is a football stadium located in the Town of Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. It is the home stadium for the Buffalo Bills professional football team.

The stadium opened in 1973. The Bills wouldn't lose a playoff game at the stadium until December 28, 1996. In 1972, Rich Products signed a 25-year deal by which the venue would be called Rich Stadium; this is one of the earliest examples of the sale of naming rights in North American sports. After the original deal expired in 1998, the stadium was renamed in honor of Bills founder and owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., after Wilson rejected a plea from the fans to name the stadium after former Bills offensive lineman Bob Kalsu, the only professional athlete to lose his life in the Vietnam War.

The construction of the stadium and its location were the source of years of litigation, which ended with a huge financial settlement for a developer who had planned to erect an all-weather stadium in Amherst, New York. The current stadium is open-air, with a capacity of 73,967, with an artificial surface; the current surface is AstroPlay, one of several newer types of artificial turf that offers more grass-like playing conditions. The stadium originally had a capacity of 80,020, however it was refurbished in 1998 with superior quality seating, reducing overall capacity. The Sheldon Family Cemetery is located just outside of Gate 7 of the Stadium.

It is considered one of the top three venues in the NFL for tailgating. As many as 60,000 people are on site tailgating 3 hours prior to the game. Typically, up to 20,000 don't attend the game, coming to the stadium simply to enjoy the parking lot's festivities. On game days, Orchard Park becomes New York state's sixth-largest town, with over 120,000 people in the area, between town residents and stadium visitors. It's also one of the most densely populated: roughly one out of every 12 people in the Western New York region comes to the two square miles along Abbott Road and Southwestern Boulevard (US 20).

The stadium has a reputation for excessive high-velocity swirling winds and is considered the most treacherous place in the NFL for kickers to play. This is largely due to its unique architecture. The main bowl of the stadium is fifty feet under ground level with only the upper decks standing above ground. The two open ends lie parallel to the direction of the prevailing winds. The winds come in through the open scoreboard end of the stadium and immediately drop down into the bowl, causing the swirling winds that kickers find so problematic.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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