Ticket sales reflect high expectations

Buffalo's fan base hasn't reached this level since Jim Kelly was leading the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. A combination of factors are involved...

Optimism about the prospects of ending an eight-year playoff drought?

Nervous about the franchise relocating permanently to Toronto?

Market forces at work after cutting the number of home games from 10 to eight?

More proof that loyalty by NFL fans has no end?

A lot of factors are behind the Bills topping the 50,000-mark in season ticket sales with three months still to go before the start of the regular season.

The club hasn't hit this plateau since the early 1990s when it was in the midst of playing in four consecutive Super Bowls. Season-ticket sales are already up four percent from last year's mark of 48,236, and the Bills have a chance to top the 53,004 sold in 1993. The franchise record is 57,132 in 1992.

Pretty impressive for a club that has had only one winning season this decade (9-7 in 2004).

"This certainly highlights the passion and commitment this region has for the Buffalo Bills and NFL football," Russ Brandon, chief operating officer said. "We expect momentum to continue."

Expectations are running high for a better record on the field.

The Bills are coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons under coach Dick Jauron and have painstakingly rebuilt the roster mostly through the draft.

Quarterback Trent Edwards, running back Marshawn Lynch, receiver Lee Evans and rookie receiver James Hardy form the nucleus of a young offense, while the defense has been shored up with the additions of cornerback Leodis McKelvin, the team's No. 1 pick, former three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and linebacker Kawika Mitchell, one of the leaders for the New York Giants' Super Bowl run last season.

"I'm really optimistic about what we've done," Jauron said. "We know it has to translate into more wins, and everybody -- our fans and us included -- our goal is to get into the playoffs. There are 32 teams and all of us want that one goal at the end of the playoffs, to win a world championship. We're working hard and once again believe we're doing the right things but it's got to show up on the field."

While fans are sharing in their coach's optimism, it's also evident that a Bills season ticket is one of the best deals in the NFL.

While the team increased prices by an average of 10.3 percent per ticket, season tickets dropped from between $40 and $60 because two games are being played in Toronto and aren't included in the season-ticket package for Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The best lower-bowl general season ticket in Orchard Park costs $560 a year and the lowest is $240.

Meanwhile, in order to be able to purchase a ticket for the games in Toronto (Aug. 12 preseason game vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 7 regular-season vs. Miami) one has to be a season-ticket holder and part of a lottery. That no doubt spiked season-ticket sales a bit, though an exact figure isn't known.

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