"Suite Deal" at the Ralph Turns Sour
By Tony Farina
Only 54 people showed up for the free "I Love New York Hospitality Suite" seats last season at the Ralph, a perk the state put into the new lease agreement last year to try and attract entrepreneurs to take a look at Buffalo as a possible place to do business.
That's 54 out of a possible 112 for the 16-seat luxury suite over the course of the seven-game home season, a sad commentary on the football team and the suite managers, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, who looked almost as bad as the Bills. And not a single guest showed up for the last two games.
For the record, Empire State Development, the state agency charged with handling the suite, has a tough job in trying to get people to come to the Ralph in mostly bad weather to see a team that has averaged six wins a year since 2000.
Let's break it down a little more. The Bills last made the NFL playoffs after the 1999 season. That's 14 years ago in case you are counting, an NFL record. Since that time, the mighty Bills have posted 88 wins against 136 losses. In the last seven years, the Bills have a record of 42 wins and 70 defeats. Not the stuff that's likely to draw out-of-towners or even the faithful to watch a football game in sometimes hostile weather that makes even getting to the game no easy task.
Incredibly, and possibly with his fingers crossed behind him, the CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise called the first season of state's "suite" deal "very successful," given the short lead time.
I suggest to Mr. Thomas Kucharski, the CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, that it was about as successful as the football team, or put more bluntly, a big flop. Like it or not, the Bills-aside from snow-are about the only thing about Buffalo that gets national attention and they are big-time losers.
How can promoters sell Buffalo when they can't even get possible job creators to come to a free luxury suite to watch a football game? The suite would fill up, and the city would improve its national image, if it won something once in a while, because, let's face it, cities are often judged by the caliber of their sports teams, not the character and hardiness of their fans or their architectural treasurers.
In either hockey or football, Buffalo needs to do something other than to set records for futility. It would help our national image and improve our own self-esteem if we had something to brag about other than the 12th man.
When we did reach the top with four Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990's, we confirmed our image as losers by dropping all four games. It will be hard to erase that stain, but it would be nice if we could do it and we would all feel a little better.
The Sabres and the Bills are little more than expensive entertainment and at this point no threat to challenge for a championship in the near future. What is it about this community that we can't get a winner? The answer probably is bad sports management at the highest levels, the inability for one reason or another, to attract name players and coaches to Buffalo. And who could blame them given the history of the local franchises.
The state's handlers can make all the excuses they want about the poor turnout for the free luxury suite seats at the Ralph, but the truth is the losing team and frequent lousy weather are a lot to overcome. We can't do anything about the weather, but we can do something about the team if the front office only knew how. That goes for the Sabres, too, who made changes only after the fans stopped coming out.
Time will tell if the Sabres can turn things around, but as for the Bills, the losing culture will be hard to change. But maybe it will happen someday.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Feb 11, 2014