New Era to end sponsorship of Buffalo Bills stadium

The Buffalo Bills NFL American football franchise is seeking a new stadium sponsor after confirming that New Era Cap Company has asked to be released from its agreement with the team.

The Bills’ stadium has been called New Era Field since 2016 but the sports apparel company will no longer sponsor the venue. The Bills and New Era are currently negotiating the terms of their separation and the team is pursuing a new naming-rights partner.

No reason was given for the termination of the seven-year deal, which was signed in 2016. New Era Field has a capacity of 71,000 and was previously known as Ralph Wilson Stadium from 1998 to 2015, and as Rich Stadium for more than 20 years before that.

The Bills’ agreement with New Era had reportedly been worth $4m (£3.2m/€3.5m) a year and was due to cover the remainder of the team’s lease deal at the stadium, which is owned by Erie County.

In February, the Bills chose not to use an early opt-out clause to terminate its lease agreement for New Era Field, meaning the team is set to remain at New Era Field until 2023. The 71,000-seat stadium has been the home of the Bills since 1973 but the team has been canvassing opinions from supporters on whether it should build a new home or renovate the existing venue.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has previously suggested that the Bills need a new stadium in order to remain competitive and reiterated that either a relocation or a major upgrade of New Era Field is required.

New Era is based in Buffalo and has been forced to furlough around 70 per cent of its workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere in the NFL, sports merchandise company Fanatics has agreed a deal to operate e-commerce and physical retail experiences at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.

The 75,000-seat stadium will also serve as the home of Charlotte’s new Major League Soccer team, which will join the competition next year. Fanatics agreed the deal with Tepper Sports & Entertainment (TSE).

Fanatics will oversee all in-venue retail locations at the stadium, including the official team store, kiosks and additional concourse shops. Over time, the groups’ multi-channel relationship will enable Fanatics to create experiential retail touchpoints throughout the venue across multiple technology infusions.

Fanatics’ cloud commerce platform will drive the teams’ enhanced online and mobile shopping platforms. The Panthers’ new online store is currently live and accessible by fans and the blending of online and offline merchandise will lead to the creation of an omnichannel retail experience for fans.

Fanatics already serves as the official e-commerce partner of the NFL and MLS. The Panthers become Fanatics’ 25th NFL partner, nine of which are omnichannel deals, while Carolina’s new MLS team will mark Fanatics’ 14th MLS omnichannel partner upon its launch on July 22.

Fanatics has helped launch full e-commerce and in-venue retail operations for MLS expansion teams Inter Miami, Nashville SC and Los Angeles Football Club.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have confirmed that home games during the 2020 season will go ahead with a reduced capacity based on guidelines from state and local government, medical professionals and public health officials. The team’s ticket office has today (Thursday) shared its updated plans for the new season with personal seat license owners.

In an email to fans, the Panthers wrote: “In order to accommodate as many PSL owners as possible in this reduced-capacity scenario, we plan to make a limited number of home games available to each account.

“The number of games each PSL owner will have access to will be determined by factors such as approved capacity, overall demand and, in some cases, seating location.”

PSL owners have been asked to either opt in using tickets in 2020 or opt out without a penalty. Fans who opt out will be given the option to carry credit over to the 2021 season and future ticket purchases or receive a full refund.

Image: Buffalo Bills