The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is helping remake waterfronts and improving recreational trail systems in two former Rust Belt cities that meant so much to the late former owner of pro football's Buffalo Bills.
The Detroit-based philanthropy on Wednesday announced investments of $50 million each for West Riverfront Park in Detroit and LaSalle Park in Buffalo, New York. Each is being renamed Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.
Another $50 million each will go to support regional trails in southeastern Michigan and western New York.
For each donation, $10 million will be set aside for future maintenance.
"We are extremely grateful for this generous donation that will enhance the quality of life for generations of Buffalo residents as they enjoy expanded, inclusive access to our city's waterfront and everything that Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park has to offer,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown.
It is also understood that along with the donations, parks in each state will be renamed Ralph C. Wilson Jr Centennial Park.
Ralph C. Wilson Jr. founded the Buffalo Bills in 1959. He went on to serve as owner for 54 years. That is the third longest tenure as owner in NFL history. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. Wilson Jr. was also one of the founders of the AFL, which eventually merged with the NFL in 1970.
He won two AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. Under his leadership the Bills also won four AFC championships in a row from 1990-1993.
The late Bill's owner foundation is committed to donating around $1.2 billion in western New York and southeastern Michigan.
Wednesday's announcements in both Detroit and Buffalo mark what would have been Wilson's 100th birthday. Wilson died in 2014 at age 95 at his Grosse Pointe Shores home in suburban Detroit.