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NFL

When will Buffalo Bills play in their new stadium?

The Bills have called Highmark Stadium home since 1973 but after more than 50 years the NFL side has broke ground on a new stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

New Bills stadium set for 2026 opening
TIMOTHY T LUDWIGAFP

This season has brought fresh optimism for the Buffalo Bills, who topped AFC East and finished the regular season in second place in the AFC Conference.

They embark on their playoff journey on Monday evening as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Wild Card clash. The game will be played at Highmark Stadium, the home of the Bills since opening in 1973.

But the team is in the process of building a new, state-of-the-art stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The new 62,000-seat stadium is taking shape opposite the team’s current home, which is set to be demolished at the completion of the new one.

The ground-breaking ceremony commenced on 5 June 2023 and officials hope to “achieve substantial completion by Summer 2026.” This would mean that the New Highmark Stadium will be operational to host every single home game of the Bills’ 2026 campaign.

From Rich, to Ralph Wilson, to Highmark

The Bills are an important part of the culture in Western New York, and Highmark Stadium has been home for generations of the Bills Mafia. It wasn’t always called Highmark Stadium; the Bills opened the doors to what was then called Rich Stadium in 1973. Since then Buffalo fans have seen legends like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith etch their names in the history books as Kelly led Buffalo four straight AFC Championships wins in the 90s, three of those being played in Buffalo.

The Bills would fall out of the spotlight into near irrelevance in the league as their stadium changed names from Rich Stadium to Ralph Wilson Stadium from 1998-2015. After nearly two decades of dominance in the AFC East, the New England Patriots have moved aside and the Bills are now the reference point in the division. That hasn’t translated into a return to the Super Bowl, but Josh Allen and Sean McDermott have their side headed in the right direction.

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They have a mission to bring the AFC Championship back to Buffalo and back to Highmark Stadium, but time is running out. There are just a few years left for what has been the home to the Bills for a half century.

Bills eager to retain famous atmosphere

The good news is they won’t have to travel very far. Plans for a new stadium are in the works and the New Highmark Stadium will be right across the street from the original Highmark Stadium. The new venue will seat 62,000 and is expected to cost upwards of $1.7 billion.

The Stadium will be designed by architectural firm Populous, who worked on Sahlen Field in Buffalo (home to minor league baseball teams), and a dozen NFL stadiums around the country. The blue print for the stadium follows a similar lay out to that of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which was also built by Populous and opened in 2019.

The Bills Mafia has never needed help making noise at Highmark, but the stacked seating at their new stadium will help retain noise, while keeping out the elements on cold winter days in Buffalo according to Bills Insider Chris Brown.

“The goal is to create the most vibrant, loudest, ground-shaking experience possible,” Brown said. “In recognition of the uniquely Western New York culture, throughout the stadium there will be dynamic areas designed to bring Bills fans together to share their love for local food, beverage and camaraderie.”