Buffalo Bills lose preseason game at Toronto

JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer Published:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills will be making one fewer trip north of the border after announcing Tuesday that they won't be playing their scheduled preseason "home" game at Toronto this summer.

The game will instead be played at Orchard Park as a result of what the team described as "scheduling conflicts" at Toronto's downtown Rogers Centre. It was unclear what the conflicts are.

This was supposed to be the third and final preseason game the Bills were scheduled to play in Toronto as part of a five-year, $78 million agreement the team reached with Toronto-based Rogers Communication in 2008. The deal, which expires after this year, was supposed to include three preseason games and five annual regular-season games.

In announcing the preseason game being switched, the Bills said they will still play their annual regular-season game at Toronto this year. The date and opponent of that game will be determined once the NFL releases its schedule in the next two months.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon said the team is in negotiations with Rogers to extend the series beyond this year.

"Our core goal is to continue to regionalize our franchise and continue our series in Toronto, which has served us so well," Brandon said. "We will provide more information once terms are finalized."

In December, Bills owner Ralph Wilson told The Associated Press that he was optimistic the deal would be renewed.

Though playing in Toronto has been a windfall for the Bills in generating extra money and raising the team's profile in Canada's largest city and financial capital, the series has experienced its share of growing pains.

Expensive ticket prices and the Bills' losing record have contributed to series organizers having difficulty selling out the 54,000-seat venue. That was particularly the case for Buffalo's previous two preseason games in Toronto.

The Bills drew a crowd of 39,583 for their preseason game against Indianapolis in 2010, and there was an announced crowd of 48,433 for their preseason game against Pittsburgh in 2008.

All four previous regular-season games at Toronto were announced as sellouts, even though tickets were still available at game time.

The Bills also announced Tuesday that there will be no increase to their season-ticket prices, and have dropped prices for certain sections by as much as $15 per seat for the upcoming season.

The Bills already had among the NFL's lowest ticket prices. And they're coming off a season in which they failed to sell out their final three home games last year.

The team's season-ticket base dropped to 37,555 last year, down from 44,000 the previous season. The Bills blamed the drop on the NFL lockout wiping out most of the offseason, when the team generates most of its sales.

"Everyone in the organization is committed to building upon our strong foundation," Brandon said, "and taking a significant step forward this year."