ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - The Buffalo Bills are offering a package of discounted tickets in a bid to fill a combined 57,000 unsold seats available for their final three home games.
Calling the promotion a "December Charge," CEO Russ Brandon announced the deal on Tuesday, saying the team is offering a 12.5 per cent discount when fans buy tickets for all three games.
"This is the first package we've rolled out that is really focused on the general fan to try to create awareness and a call to action of where we are right now heading into our December games," Brandon said. "Our whole focus as an organization is to fill the building and provide the home-field advantage that we've enjoyed throughout the first four games of the year."
In a three-way tie atop the AFC East, the Bills (5-3) play their next three on the road, starting at Dallas (4-4) on Sunday. Buffalo then returns to play three of its next four at home before closing the season at New England on Jan. 1.
Brandon wasn't surprised by the amount of tickets still available, even though the Bills already have among the NFL's lowest ticket prices, averaging about US$53.
Brandon said the Bills lost much of the off-season to generate sales due to the NFL lockout. That's also affected their season-ticket base, which is at 37,555 — down from 44,000 last year.
The Bills have also traditionally had a difficult time selling out Ralph Wilson Stadium for games in December when the weather turns cold.
Of the 14 non-sellouts the Bills had from 2000-2010, 10 of those games came after Thanksgiving. And that number doesn't include games that were listed as sellouts only because team owner Ralph Wilson or a local company purchased the final batch of tickets to avoid a TV blackout, as happened with last year's home finale against New England.
And it's made no difference whether the Bills have been a winner or loser. During the franchise's heydays in the 1990s, Brandon said the team failed to sell out about 55 per cent of its games in December.
The Bills had previously lobbied the NFL to schedule more home games earlier in the season to help boost ticket sales. The schedule-maker didn't co-operate this year, giving the Bills three games in December.
Brandon said there are 16,000 tickets unsold for both of Buffalo's games against Tennessee, on Dec. 4, and Miami, on Dec. 18. He said there's as many as 25,000 tickets available for their home finale against Denver on Christmas Eve.
The Bills have sold out all five of their first home games, including their annual regular-season home game at Toronto two weeks ago.
The atmosphere has been raucous at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Bills are 3-1, including consecutive comeback wins over Oakland and New England in September.
"We all know what this environment is, and the energy that we receive from our 12th man, our fans, is unbelievable," Brandon said. "It's a great advantage of playing in this building in December. And we want everyone to be out here supporting their hometown team."
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can attest to the boost the Bills have received at home this year.
"We find ourselves right now atop the division, and the reason that we're here is how we've played at home this year," Fitzpatrick said. "We've been in a lot of tight games where the momentum and feeding off of the energy of the crowd has been a factor."
Of course, Fitzpatrick acknowledged the Bills must now win on the road to make those December home games meaningful.
"We feel like we're going to make them matter," Fitzpatrick said. "We feel like we're going to have some good games here on the road and really bring a good product back for our fans to be able to appreciate and cheer for."