The stadium was constructed in response to an edict from the NFL that all league stadiums had to have at least a capacity of 50,000. The team's prior facility, War Memorial Stadium, held just under 47,000.Before the stadium opened, a local food product company, Rich Products, signed a 25-year naming rights contract whereby it would be referred to as Rich Stadium. Once that contract ended, the stadium became known as Ralph Wilson Stadium, in tribute to the Bills' longtime owner.
Sports History in the Making
During the facility's first year, Rich Stadium served as the home for Bills' running back O.J. Simpson, who became the first professional football player ever to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season, finishing with 2,003. In the seven games he played at Rich Stadium that year, Simpson gained 1,055 yards.
While the Bills would reach the postseason in 1974, 1980 and 1981, the first home playoff game at Rich Stadium wouldn't take place until New Year's Day 1989. However, over the next 11 seasons, Buffalo would host many postseason games, including three AFC Championship games.
All three were victories for the Bills that advanced them to the Super Bowl, but they came up short each time. On January 3, 1993, the greatest comeback in NFL history took place at Rich Stadium when Buffalo rebounded from a 35-3 deficit to win 41-38 in overtime. The Winter Classic On New Year's Day 2008, the stadium was the site of the first National Hockey League (NHL) Winter Classic, with the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game was won in dramatic fashion in a shootout by Pittsburgh, 2-1, with the contest drawing a sellout crowd of 71,217. The game marked the first-ever outdoor regular season pro hockey game in the United States. Renovations In 1998, the stadium underwent renovations that reduced capacity, adding larger seats as well as club and luxury seating. The original scoreboard was replaced in 1994, with that scoreboard being replaced in 2007. When the Bills signed a 10-year lease to stay at the stadium until 2023, the deal included $130 million more in renovations.