Buffalo Bills won't play in Toronto next season
Uncertain if entire series is in jeopardy
The Buffalo Bills announced on Wednesday that the team will not play a home game at Rogers Centre in Toronto during the 2014 season.
The move had been rumoured in recent days as the Bills release information this weekend on their home ticket package.
Team president Russ Brandon stopped of saying that the experiment is over for good. The Bills and Rogers extended the series two years ago to run through 2017.
"We're going to look at every aspect, that if we do come back that we have a more robust fan experience and try to create more of a home-field advantage," Brandon said. "Right now, that was not the situation. And that was one of the reasons we wanted to get into a lot of detail with our partners up there and see if that's viable moving forward."
The Bills have gone 1-5 in regular-season games in Toronto, winning two pre-season contests.
The team has played to a less than full building, regardless of opponent, or if the game time was scheduled for Sunday afternoon or Thursday night. The average ticket price was $120, for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 14 seasons.
For the team's 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta in December, the announced attendance at Rogers Centre was 38,969. That's just more than half of the sellout figure for a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
That game was arguably most notable for the appearance of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, which caused a stir.
Opposing offences playing the Bills in Toronto have rarely had to deal with crowd noise, and the series has been criticized for being unable to preserve the tailgate culture that exists in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The atmosphere hasn't been helped by the fact the Bills have often been essentially out of the playoff hunt for the late-season games, held four out of six times in December.
"It's been a roller coaster from the standpoint of the losses and that's on us," Brandon said. "We have not played well up there. We have to take responsibility for that."
The series in Toronto was announced with much fanfare in 2008, with Rogers paying close to $80 million for eight games (five regular-season and three pre-season) over five years. Buffalo historically has drawn thousands of fans from Ontario to games in Western New York, a region whose population base has shrunk in the last couple of decades due in part to economic woes.
The announcement raised questions about the club's future home schedule, as there has been no defined succession plan in place for the Bills beyond owner Ralph Wilson, who turns 96 in October and has owned the club since its inception in 1960.
The first regular-season game of the series in 2008 against Miami had an official attendance of just over 52,000, the highest for any game in the venture.
Despite the struggles, the extension of the partnership was announced in early 2013.
Brandon did say the partnership has increased the team's Canadian fanbase, with 18 per cent attending Bills games from Ontario.
With files from The Associated Press