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Why Buffalo Bills Won’t Lose Big Bucks By Moving Game to Detroit

Image: NFL: Buffalo Bills-Winter Storm Scenes

The Ralph Wilson Stadium is covered in snow on Nov. 20 after a major storm hit the area in Orchard Park, N.Y. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Kevin Hoffman / Reuters

Buffalo’s NFL team won’t drop big bills Monday night by moving their “home” game to Detroit’s Ford Field, say spokesmen for the club and the league.

NFL franchises typically collect well more than $2 million for hosting each home game. Most of that is income derived from ticket sales. But the league and its teams can tap insurance policies that cover contingencies like the weather-forced relocation of a game.

"We are working through the process of recovering our expenses and lost revenue in partnership with the NFL,” said Scott Berchtold, a spokesman for the Buffalo Bills. “This process includes many elements and will take time. In addition, the Bills and the NFL carry insurance to protect for situations such as this.”

Detroit-Bound Bills Guard Takes Snowmobile to Airport 0:27

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that Berchtold’s statement “is accurate,” but he declined further comment.

A mammoth storm last week choked Buffalo and other swaths of western New York with up to eight feet of snow, leaving the Bills unable to play as scheduled Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Bills officials told ESPN they are "highly optimistic" their home game this Sunday against Cleveland will go on as scheduled).

If not for the NFL’s deep pockets and the insurance refunds, revenue losses to the Bills could have been stiff.

“Given that the Bills would be losing 1/8th of the revenue from regular season ticket sales, concessions and parking, the hit (would have been) significant,” said Aju Fenn, an economics professor at Colorado College, who has published past research on NFL team economics.

$3.9 Million in Gate Receipts

Through the Bills’ first five home games, the average attendance at Ralph Wilson Stadium is 69,069 fans, about 94 percent of capacity. The Bills’ average ticket price is about $57, according to recent analysis by Team Marketing Report. That equates to about $3.9 million in gate receipts per game.

However, the two competing clubs split that pot, with 60 percent going to the home team. That means the Bills potentially could have lost about $2.3 million in ticket sales alone by shifting their matchup with the Jets to Detroit.

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The Bills also are offering fans full ticket refunds and free entry to Monday night’s game in Detroit. The team has not yet revealed the collective losses it could have sustained in gate, concession, parking and other game-day revenues.

In December 2010, snow split open the roof at Minnesota’s Metrodome, forcing the Minnesota Vikings to move their clash with the New York Giants to Detroit’s Ford Field.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission — which then operated the Metrodome (torn down earlier this year) — said it typically earned about $650,000 in tax and concession revenue per Vikings game. Media estimates at the time listed overall revenue losses as being in the “millions of dollars.”