The effort to regionalize the Buffalo Bills, and thus to keep them in Western New York, possibly isn’t working as well as the team had planned.
Thursday night’s game between the Colts and the Bills reportedly was played before roughly 20,000 fans, according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.
Even the announced attendance of 39,583 wasn’t all that impressive.
Thursday’s game, the fourth of an eight-game Toronto series, represented the first time fewer than 40,000 showed up for the game, based on official numbers. The 2008 debut, a preseason contest between the Bills and the Steelers, produced an official attendance of 48,434. A regular-season game that year against the Dolphins churned out an official attendance figure of 52,134. Last year’s Thursday night game against the Jets on NFL Network produced an official number of 51,567.
This year, the Bills host the Bears in Toronto on November 7. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent any of the 53,000 seats will be filled with something other than air.
Making Thursday’s attendance figures more troubling is the fact that the game featured a chance for a Canadian audience to see Peyton Manning and the Colts. If the trend isn’t reversed, the apparent plan to keep the Bills viable in Buffalo by playing some of the games before a packed house in Toronto could have to be scuttled — which would put the Bills right back in the mix of teams that may move to Los Angeles.