Jerry Jones sounds more concerned with 'growing of the pie' than keeping Bills in WNY
ATLANTA -- One of the NFL's most influential voices offered some ominous words about the Buffalo Bills' future in Western New York.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declined to comment about the Bills and their looming sale today at a league meeting. But he did note it's important for the NFL to take advantage of any options to increase revenues.
While that could include a new stadium, Jones suggested that also could include the Bills moving to a larger market such as Toronto.
"Out of respect for Ralph Wilson, out of respect for everything he's meant for the NFL -- a Hall of Famer, but in my mind one of the founders of the NFL -- I don't want to get ahead of things at all in commenting about the future of the Bills," Jones said this afternoon.
Jones added, "We always ought to be looking for ways to improve not only the growing the pie but also growing the fan base. And to the extent that you can involve more fans in any team location is something to be considered."
Jones and the NFL's other owners are gathering at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta for their annual May meeting. They will select the 2018 Super Bowl site and discuss other issues such as playoff expansion.
The Bills are not on the agenda, but their future will be a hot off-the-record topic. Wilson died at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., when the owners convened for their annual March meeting in Orlando, Fla.
With time to reflect on Wilson's passing, the Bills' sale process that has begun and stadium possibilities being bandied about, the other 31 teams and the league office are analyzing every development.
"We certainly want to create every opportunity we can to involve more fans," Jones said. "At the end of the day, it's my town against your town, Cowboys against whoever we're playing.
"To the end that we can create more rivalries and involve larger viewing audiences, populations, that's something that you have to look at when you get a chance to, and that's the debate between Buffalo and Toronto."
Much of what Jones has to say on the Bills' future could be gamesmanship. NFL owners want government handouts for new stadiums. Without pressure, the public's appetite for giving away money isn't as great.
"I know firsthand how impactful a new stadium can be," Jones said, "a state-of-the-art stadium, one that can and tries to create as many amenities and fan experiences as you can with technology in 2014 as opposed to when some of these other stadiums were built.
"Every team needs to look at how they can continually be as fan-friendly as they can. I can tell you first-hand a new stadium is a step in the right direction."
Ralph Wilson Stadium, opened in 1973, is one of the NFL's oldest venues. The Ralph is undergoing $130 million in renovations as part of an Erie County lease agreement that can end in 2020.
Jones sounded particularly intrigued with Toronto and one of the rumored suitors with ties to the Canadian metropolis.
Rock star Jon Bon Jovi is interested in becoming an NFL owner and has been associated with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executives Larry Tanenbaum and Tim Leiweke.
"I don't know of anyone that I have more respect for as a father or as a husband or, certainly, as a potential business partner," Jones said.
"He's an outstanding candidate to be an owner in the NFL."