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Organizers expect eight-game series in Toronto to sell out

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tickets for the Buffalo Bills' eight-game series in Toronto will average $183 per seat -- more than triple the cost for the team's home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season.

The ticket prices, ranging from $55 to $295, were released Wednesday by the Toronto-based group hosting the series, which will have the Bills play five annual regular-season and three preseason games at the 54,000-seat Rogers Centre through 2012.

The prices are in Canadian money, which is currently near par with the U.S. dollar, and do not include a large bulk of VIP sideline and hospitality suite seats, which will raise the average even higher.

Despite the hefty price, organizers anticipate the games selling out after 180,000 ticket requests were registered on a Web site last month. About 30,000 tickets per game will be distributed in two weeks by lottery to Internet registrants as well as a limited number of Bills and CFL Toronto Argonauts season-ticket holders.

"We are overwhelmed by this response," said Phil Lind, vice chairman of Rogers Communications, one of the organizers and owner of the Blue Jays and the downtown retractable-roof facility.

Rogers CEO and founder Ted Rogers partnered with Larry Tanenbaum to have the Bills play in Toronto as part of their effort to lure a permanent NFL franchise to Canada's largest city and financial capital. Tanenbaum is chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

The Bills will become the first NFL team to play annual games outside the United States starting this season when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a preseason game at Toronto on Aug. 14, followed by a regular-season game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 7.

The Bills' average ticket price for its games at Orchard Park this season is about $51, among the lowest in the NFL. The decision to play in Toronto, located a 90-minute drive from Buffalo, is an attempt by the Bills to expand their market and generate additional revenue.

The deal is already paying off for the Bills. Rogers is committed to paying the Bills $78 million -- more than double the team's calculated 2006 operating income -- to essentially lease the eight games. The Bills will provide the team, the NFL provides an opponent and the Toronto organizers will be responsible for ticket sales, concessions and promotions.

The Toronto group should recoup that payment on tickets sales alone, which would bring in more than $79 million should all eight games sell out at an average $183.

Individuals will have the option to purchase packages of three games (two games this year and next year's regular-season game) or the full eight games.

Rogers is also expected to garner additional revenue through broadcast advertising revenues. The games will be shown across Canada on two networks owned by Rogers.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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