With hockey on the outs and ticket prices slashed, the Buffalo Bills are on the verge of selling out a regular season game in Toronto for the first time in the team's five-year history in the city.
About 85 per cent of the 45,000 seats in the Rogers Centre have been sold for the Dec. 16 game against the Seattle Seahawks with a week to go. That's well ahead of previous years, said Bills In Toronto executive director Greg Albrecht, and puts them within striking range of a sellout.
It probably doesn't have much to do with the talent of the field – the Bills have a 5-7 record and the Seahawks are a middling 7-5. But Rogers Communications Inc., which owns the stadium and runs the series, said its pregame street festival and its Gangam Style-halftime show seem to have sparked interest.
"This year seems stronger – there's a lot more interest because of the pricing structure which helped a lot and the entertainment value is pretty strong as well," he said. "We've never sold out, we've always been been a few shy. I don't want to officially say we will sell out and jinx it, but the hope is we will do that."
And although interest seems to be growing, Rogers won't be immediately able to translate that into more games. While it's believed the team and communications giant will eventually announce another five-year deal, the company wouldn't elaborate on its plans.
Rogers said in July that it would cut ticket prices by as much as 50 per cent for this year's regular season game, with the best seats seeing the biggest cut. Field level seats are all but sold out, he said, after being reduced to $85 from last year's $170.
With NHL players locked out, Rogers also hopes to convince some hockey fans to wander to the Rogers Centre instead of the Maple Leafs' Air Canada Centre for a mid-December outing.
"The NFL and NHL are potentially different fan bases, but I'm sure there are a few NHL fans dying for some sports."
The game is the last in a five-year deal between the league and the communications company that saw the Bills travel north for one preseason and one regular season game a year. The preseason game was cancelled for 2012, because of a lack of availability at the Rogers Centre.
The company has adjusted prices lower every season, and called the new pricing "right for today's environment."