The Buffalo Bills and New Era Cap made it official Thursday. The Orchard Park-based stadium in which the pro football team plays is known as New Era Field for at least the next seven years.
News had already leaked by Wednesday that the Bills' home would be renamed New Era Field. Before using the new name Thursday morning, current Buffalo Bills co-owner Terry Pegula paid tribute to the late Ralph Wilson, who established the team in 1960 and owned it until his death in 2014.
Pegula, along with his wife Kim, bought the team later that year. He praised Wilson for founding the club and also for the length of time he held on to the franchise, a feat Pegula said he'd never match.
"But today we look down the road. Today we look to the future and today we turn a page in Bills history," Pegula said. "I've been told by people who knew Ralph - I had never met Ralph - that Ralph would be proud to turn this page with us."
The stadium, which opened in 1973 as Rich Stadium, was renamed in Wilson's honor in 1999 as part of the lease agreement then negotiated with Erie County. Fans casually referred to the stadium since then as "The Ralph."
New Era president and CEO Chris Koch also paid tribute to Wilson in his remarks during the ceremony, stating that his company has "big shoes to fill" with this naming rights agreement.
"We feel we're going to do our very best to carry on his legacy," Koch said to WBFO. "But we also feel good about the fact that we are a company that's been in Buffalo for 96 years. Our headquarters are here. Not only are our headquarters here but we still have manufacturing right outside of Buffalo."
The company first manufactured Gatsby-styled hats then moved into baseball caps in the 1930s. Decades later, New Era secured deals to produce caps for other major sports leagues, including the National Football League. And more recently, New Era has become a globally-recognized brand for its pop fashion themes.
Being a local company that has made a name for itself worldwide is why Bills president Russ Brandon called the naming rights agreement a perfect fit.
"I think it's really exciting because the creativity between Pegula Sports and Entertainment, what we do here with the Bills, they're (New Era) a massive creative team with what they do across the globe," Brandon said.
"I'm excited to see how this all generates into the future, for sure."