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Ruminating on Highmark Stadium’s low ranking, Bills, Yanks, Mets woes, new Wings Hall-of-Famers

Ruminating on Highmark Stadium’s low ranking, Bills, Yanks, Mets woes, new Wings Hall-of-Famers

Sports fans and media love lists, and The Athletic put together a provocative one this week that sucked me in and got my knickers in a bit of a knot. The poll ranks the 30 National Football League stadiums based on everything from game day atmosphere to sight lines to ticket and concession prices to history. The list was compiled by the beat reporters who cover the league’s 32 teams. (The New York Giants and Jets share MetLife Stadium, while the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers share SoFi Stadium, which accounts for the discrepancy between the number of teams and stadiums.)

U.S. Bank Stadium, home to the Minnesota Vikings, tops the list, followed by SoFi and Lambeau Field, which has been home to the Green Bay Packers since 1957. The worst-ranked venue was Washington’s FedEx Field, edging out Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field and Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium for that dubious distinction.

Buffalo Bills fans will be upset to learn that Highmark Stadium came in at No. 24, and I have to agree with Bills Mafia that the ranking is much too low. Highmark, which opened 50 Augusts ago as Rich Stadium, is a top-five venue in my mind. Yes, there are occasions when the weather can be challenging and even downright brutal, but I would argue that unlike games played in antiseptic domes, the weather can add to the game day atmosphere.

As far as sight lines are concerned, it’s really difficult to beat the ones at Highmark. The Bills’ ticket and concession prices, though on the rise, are a pittance compared to their big-market brethren. And there has been no shortage of memorable games (The Comeback, 51-3, Snowvember, etc.) and performers (Jim Kelly, Josh Allen, O.J. Simpson, Bruce Smith, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, etc.) at One Bills Drive. Plenty of football history has occurred there in the past half century.

It sounds to me these rankings were based more on sportswriters’ comfort and convenience levels rather than what’s most important to diehard fans. As mentioned, Highmark has always been in my top five, with peerless Lambeau a solid No. 1. The Packers game-day ambience is second to none, and like the Bills experience, the tailgating and fan passion gives the feel of a college game. Plus, in both stadiums, you are right on top of the action. They provide an intimacy often lacking in the newer venues.

Hopefully, that will continue to be the case with the Bills new $1.4 billion stadium scheduled for opening in 2026. It sounds as if the new digs will provide more creature comforts without turning it into a mall-park.


Sports fans and media also love to overreact. This point was driven home again following the ugly showing by the Bills starters in an exhibition game loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday. Yes, the performance was undisciplined (12 penalties in the first half alone) and concerning (the offensive line was porous and it’s apparent the Bills haven’t found a suitable replacement for free agent linebacker defector Tremaine Edmunds.) But — repeat after me — it was only a PRESEASON game for crying out loud. On the plus side, maybe this was a good thing; a wake-up call for some of the veteran players who perhaps were believing their laudatory press clippings.


So happy to see that Fred Costello and Blaise DiNardo are going to be inducted into Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame on September 16. Costello began as the team’s organist at old Silver Stadium back in 1977, and since that time has provided the baseball soundtrack in our town, both at Silver and Frontier/Innovative Field. Now in his 47th season tickling the ivories, Costello has established himself as the longest reigning organist in the history of sports, working 3,324 Wings home games. (Toss in 1,481 Rochester American hockey games, plus other sports, and his totals balloon to nearly 5,000 performances.)

A 20-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department, DiNardo joined the Wings as their Director of Security in 1963 and served in that capacity for 60 seasons. But just as Costello has been much more than an organist, DiNardo was much more than just a security director. Donning his signature blue blazer and flashing an ever-present, welcoming smile, Blaise acted as a good-will ambassador at both ballparks. Sadly, he died last year, but he’s sure to be there in spirit next month when he and Costello are celebrated as all-time Wings.


It’s obviously been a rotten baseball season in the Big Apple — a season in which the Yankees and Mets were painfully reminded that armored cars filled with money don’t guarantee a World Series title, or even a playoff berth for that matter. These teams entered the season with the two highest payrolls in Major League Baseball — the Mets opening with a roster salary of $344 million and the Yankees at $279 million. Their return on their investment has been putrid. As I write this, the Mets are 22 games behind Atlanta in the National League East, while the Yankees trail the Baltimore Orioles by 17 games in the American League East.

Money bags Mets owner Steve Cohen already has begun revamping his roster and soon will do the same with his front office. Meanwhile, his cross-borough counterpart, Hal Steinbrenner, fiddles while his Bronx empire burns. The Yankees makeover will be much more painful and costly, thanks to a series of onerous, long-term contracts general manager Brian Cashman doled out to oft-injured, over-the-hill players. The Yankees have roughly $125 million invested this season in underachieving Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Luis Severino, Carlos Rodon and Frankie Montas. For perspective, that outlay for this not-so-magnificent seven is nearly double the payroll for the entire roster of the young, exciting, athletic, division-leading Orioles.

The bad news for Yankee fans and the good news for Yankee-haters is that Cashman received a four-year extension following last season, meaning that unless Steinbrenner comes to his senses and replaces Cashman with a smart baseball mind like former Yankee and current Miami Marlins exec Kim Ng, the Bronx Bombers will continue to founder; their 14-year World Series drought will go on indefinitely.

Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist. He’s in his 51st year of newspapering.