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DIYing a Set of Retro-Styled Buffalo Bills Season Tickets

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[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from Mike Cline Jr. — you may know him on Twitter as Helmet Addict — who’s going to tell us about a great DIY project.]

By Mike Cline Jr.

When I was a kid in the late ’80s and early ’90s, few things topped the excitement of getting a ticket to a Buffalo Bills game. Opening up the envelope and seeing which game I would get to attend, seeing the colors and the opposing team’s logo — it was the best.

Two of Mike Cline’s old Bills stubs, from 1989 (left) and 1991.

Back then, it was still quite novel and exciting for me to attend one or two games a year. As an adult, I’ve had Bills season tickets for a couple decades now. I still get excited about seeing my favorite team, but the thing I really miss are the ticket stubs from the games I attend. If you grew up in the stub era, you know what I’m talking about —  each stub represented a memory of a game you went to with your dad, uncle, grandfather, friends, or whoever.

You rarely see physical tickets anymore, and the ones that do exist are a far cry from the interesting and exciting designs of years past. Some teams still have elaborate season ticket packaging, but my Bills season tickets are either digital or in the form of a card with a chip that gets scanned at the gate. Either way, there’s no chance of having a cool souvenir from each game. So I recently decided to make my own paper tickets, giving me something I could display and share with friends and family who attend games with me. 

The project really started back in 2019, when my fiancé and I were planning our football-themed wedding. I decided it would be a cool idea to print up retro-styled replica tickets with our guests’ seat assignments on them. So I took out my old 1988-1991 Bills ticket stubs and recreated the basic design in Photoshop. Unfortunately, due to Covid, we had to cancel our reception and never had the chance to implement our plan. But I still had the ticket template, so I decided to use it to make myself a season ticket set for 2022. 

The first step was creating all the 1980s-style helmet graphics for the visiting teams (a ticket-design approach that’s unheard of today, because teams would rather market themselves than their opponents). Using a blank helmet graphic from an old Phoenix Cardinals stylesheet that I picked up from a thrift store, I scanned and made a vector file to create modern versions of the ’80s-style graphic. Once that was completed, I added them to the ticket template I had created for the wedding project. Then I customized the seat locations and prices to reflect our actual seats.

For the first batches of printed tickets, I used 80# matte cardstock that I already had on hand. I wasn’t sure my printer would give me the results I wanted, but when using the best quality settings, the tickets came out great. Once I knew the printer could handle it, I was able to print multiple runs of tickets. Then I used an inexpensive paper cutter to cut out the individual tickets.

In the future, I may experiment with different paper types, to try and recreate the glossy feel of the old tickets. I also have plans to try to recreate the back of the ticket, which back in the day had the fine-print legal notice and usually an offer for a 99¢ Whopper or something (which I never took them up on, because I would have to give up my stub!).

For each game, I also print up blank and generic tickets, using historic Rich Stadium seat locations to give to people I meet at the games. As an added touch, I put them in a little ticket envelope just like they would give you at the box office (the same kind of envelope I would be so excited to open when I was a kid).

This was a fun and exciting project that worked out just as I planned. I also plan to recreate tickets for the three away games I’ll be attending this year. It would be great if teams brought back the option to get paper tickets, but it’s good to know that I can always DIY my own, which is even more rewarding.

———

Paul here. What a great project! Big thanks to Mike for sharing it with us.


Substack/NBA Preview Reminder

As most of you probably know by now (but I’m going to remind you one last time), my weekly Premium column’s migration from Bulletin to Substack is now complete. My Bulletin archives have been imported to my new Substack page and I’ve already published my first Substack article, which is the NBA Season Preview (and I’ve updated it in real time with all the leaks and developments that have taken place since it was published). You can start reading the NBA Preview here, but you’ll need to subscribe in order to read the whole thing. Additional details on all of this, including the “Pay What You Wish” subscription option, can be found here.

• • • • •

Thanks so much to everyone who expressed kind words of support yesterday, both in the comments and via email. Between the changes to the blog, the unexpected Bullten-to-Substack transition, and the personal drama unfolding here at Uni Watch HQ, this has been the most hectic, stressful period I’ve had to deal with in quite some time. The support of the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty means a lot. Thanks again for that.

Maintaining the daily content on the blog during this period has been a challenge, but it’s also provided a structure and rhythm that’s helped keep me grounded. At some point I may need to take a day or two off, just to catch my breath. Thanks in advance for understanding. — Paul

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Comments (28)

    Love the ticket designs. It’s something I think often gets overlooked, in the same way cashless stadiums get overlooked – this is something that can be difficult for older or less well-off fans to use. Some may not have a debit card or a smart phone, how are they supposed to use tickets?

    I’m not saying this is a great solution, but the University of Arizona has reverse ATMs at their venues, where you insert cash and get a pre-loaded debit card in return.

    As a Packers season ticket holder and retired graphic designer, I have wanted to do the same type of project but haven’t started it yet. The Packers did send out a commemorative ticket sheet to account holders last year, I believe. Digital tickets are here to stay, and to the point of what about those older fans who don’t have a smart phone, etc., the answer is that like many parts of our society, they’re just waiting for us to shuffle off this mortal coil, which will “solve” many issues.

    What a great project/idea. I also mourn the loss of paper tickets. I keep all my ticket stubs in shoebox. Framed the 20 tickets from my 2008 Phillies partial season plan along with the front page of the paper when they won the championship. Definitely a treasured item for me, baffles me to think that is all a thing of the past. Not sure why teams to don’t let you opt for paper tickets if you want them.
    I know someone else who built a bar in their home, and used game/concert tickets for the top of their bar. Very cool as well.

    Those tickets are simply amazing. I’m a Browns STH and I collected all my old stubs. I miss having a ticket. The only thing missing from these is the perforations on the side. Maybe there’s an inexpensive perforating tool?

    Well done!

    There is! I got this one (link) when I was making my own old-school punny Valentines and it made it so I could tear them apart if I wanted, or I could leave them as a sheet.

    I love the ticket project. Like you, I got a thrill from the tickets themselves. Mine are in three large photo albums. It’s come in handy too, tracking my time outside Canada for my citizenship application (I was born in the USA) and writing my book ALL CAPS, chapters of which recount sports trips. Sometimes I’ll go through and pick out games to look up on Baseball Reference or check Springsteen set lists. All of that is gone with digital tickets. Making a spreadsheet just isn’t the same. Bravo to you for your initiative.

    Great idea. I do something similar, I take a screen grab or shot of the e-ticket, import into photoshop, resize it to fit a template I created and print it on photostock. Because I always wrote who I attended with on the back I now type the name on front. Not as attractive as a real ticket but still fills the memory.

    @Mike- really enjoyed this piece. Cool project from a cool guy. Those will look fantastic when they take their place in the Sports Lair. —Ryan P. (@WTHelmets)

    Ohio State is doing a thing this year where you can buy “stubs” after the fact for the game(s) you went to. Maybe that’s the future: ticket stubs as a luxury upgrade. It’s not a terrible idea. The fans still get the souvenirs while generating some revenue for the home team.

    This seems too obvious, but I used to keep my ticket stubs on a corkboard with my felt pennant.

    Univ of Iowa did something last year when the football team went undefeated at home. They offered season ticket holders a commemorative ticket at the end of the year for around $15. As someone who misses ticket stubs, I jumped all over this and was disappointed to get a sheet of crappy paper printed tickets. They weren’t even perforated or heavy stock like you’d expect a ticket to be.

    Brilliant idea, beautifully done.
    I still have a lot of stubs from my childhood from games at Vet Stadium and the Spectrum, including the night Michael Jordan set the single-game scoring record against the 76ers, the night the Phillies won the 1993 pennant and every Phillies home opener from 1982 through 1993 (I had to miss the 1994 opener because I was pitching), which always came on large, glossy cardstock.

    This is a very cool project, Mike–and so well executed! I hope you got to (or are planning to) throw a wedding reception at some point–those tickets are invites as too good an idea!

    This is the sort of thing that teams could clean up on financially. Once you get through the gate, have a “ticket booth” where (for a fee, of course) you get an actual ticket stub as a souvenir. I went to go see Pujols/Molina’s last game in Atlanta in July and, if it were available, would have completely overspent to get something like that.

    Great idea and well done! Love your design with the opponent’s helmets. I too saved all my ticket subs and miss them very much. The Packers have sent out replica tickets to season ticket holders after the season which is better than nothing but just not the same either.

    Re: Ticket stubs, though not sports. This past summer the band Phish went with online ticketing, which meant no incredible artwork for each show’s ticket stub. An artist called Joseeen created an entire set of stubs for the tour and has them available on phishart.net. They’re in the spirit of the last decade of Phish ticket artwork. The only thing is that keeping with lot artwork, the band’s name doesn’t appear on them.

    Went to the Toronto Blue Jays vs. Miami Marlins game in Buffalo NY, the first MLB game in something like 100+ years in Buffalo…. and I have no ticket stub. I have no physical evidence I was even at the game. Zero.

    First ever game in person and the first year I started going to Sabres games at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium was 1992, I have every ticket stub I went to from that year and can still picture the tickets, they had logo banners of the opposing teams on them.

    I miss real tickets.

    Let’s go Buffalo! Great work on the tickets! I also lament the loss of ticket stubs as I have saved many throughout my youth. Now I will print out the ‘virtual ticket’ or screenshot the image on my cell phone, but it’s definitely not the same.
    For the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons games, I will often purchase tickets from the box office at the stadium so they give me a real ticket instead of buying them online beforehand. It also humors me to see the receipt printed on a ticket stub.

    I’m a Jet season ticket holder (PSL…sadly) I was so thrilled early on to get real tickets and I could walk around with a lanyard to show them off. The Jets did nice creative work with their ticket designs too. It eventually morphed into a generic plastic pass and now just the phone tickets. Its sad. Unless you photograph the game as I do..you don’t have a program or a ticket to remember the experience anymore.

    I really miss printed tickets. Ohio State used to have really elaborate ones (and gorgeous cups for soft drinks with cool graphics and home schedule with opposing team logos on them too). I started saving them around 1995 (when Ohio State played Notre Dame at home… I asked my dad if we could go months and months in advance and he said yes, then as the game approached and ticket prices skyrocketed he said if we sold them I could have any toy I wanted. I told him he could sell his ticket and I’d walk to the game). A couple years ago I found the shoe box full of ticket stubs and made a little collage of them that I hang in my office.

    Paul, I’m so sorry about your breakup with Mary. These past few months of living together but not “being” together must have been very difficult for both of you. Take care of yourself and try to take comfort in knowing that you have many supportive readers who consider you a friend.

    I don’t get to many sporting events these days, but one place I definately miss physical tickets is when I’m going to see a band. I’ve kept the ticket for every gig I’ve ever been to but in the last few years they’ve all but disappeared, replaced by digital tickets and printouts. I still keep a record of every show I go to, but it doesn’t compare to pulling out my shoebox full of tickets and spending some time wandering down memory lane.

    Mike Cline Jr does great stuff! He even has his own Philadelphia Bell section in his Man Cave! Thanks for keeping the WFL alive.

    Terrific work, Mike!
    I keep tickets to races I’ve attended in a safety-pin style credential holder from my first visit to Pocono.
    While NASCAR has embraced digital ticketing, I think there’s still tracks that will issue physical/souvenir tickets for a ‘small’ fee.

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