BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — After weeks of speculation, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the official plan for fans to attend a Buffalo Bills playoff game at Bills Stadium.
Officials say 6,700 fans will be allowed inside the stadium. All fans must take a COVID-19 test and have proof of a negative test result within 72 hours of entering the stadium. Contact tracing will be done after the game. NYSDOH will monitor testing and contact tracing.
About 6,200 of the fans in attendance will be season ticket holders. Ticket holders had the opportunity to opt-in to tickets earlier in the season. Tickets will be allocated by seniority. The Buffalo Bills said about 13,000 opted in.
Bills Vice President of Operations Andy Major said the other 500 plus tickets are for team and NFL requirements.
Masks and social distancing will be required at all times. Fans who refuse to comply will be removed from the stadium. Tailgating and mass gatherings will not be allowed.
BioReference will be conducting drive-thru testing in the parking lots of the stadium two days prior to the game, results will be returned before the game. It is the only COVID-19 test that will be accepted.
"Fans will be required to pay for their testing as part of their ticket purchase to cover all associated costs. BioReference Laboratories is providing each test for fans at a reduced cost of $63. There will also be an additional cost of $11 for parking," a release on the Bills website says.
Fans who are allowed in will sit in "pods" with the group they go to the game with. They will be separated from other "pods" by rows and seats. You can find more information on tickets and the testing process on the Bills website here and here. Tickets are nontransferable, there will be no secondary market.
Fans who test positive for COVID-19 also cannot transfer their ticket, but will receive a refund for the ticket.
The plan to allow fans to return to the stadium is the result of a partnership between the Buffalo Bills, NYSDOH and BioReference. The Erie County Department of Health will not be putting resources towards the plan.
This will be the first home playoff game for the Bills since December 1996. The team will have the chance of hosting a second home playoff game if it secures the number two seed in the AFC.
Kim and Terry Pegula spoke during the governor's press briefing Friday.
"Be safe, be smart, and most importantly, be loud," Terry said.
A video message from Bills quarterback Josh Allen was also played during the governor's press briefing.
"Let's please follow guidelines, wear your masks in the stands so we can have you guys for the rest of the way, go Bills," Allen said.
7 Eyewitness News sports director Matt Bové spoke to Bills safety Jordan Poyer before the announcement about the potential for bringing fans into the stadium for the playoffs who said the following:
“Oh man, I don’t even know If you could put into words. We’ll see what happens. Obviously we would love to have the whole stands rocking with Bills Mafia, I can’t even imagine what that would feel like, what that be like and what it would look like. I know it would be a surreal sight though. So hopefully the governor can try and figure this out so we can get as many folks there as we can.”
Bills fans have not been able to attend any home games this season due to COVID-19. On December 18 Cuomo said he "would be all in favor" of allowing Bills fans into Bills Stadium for a home playoff game this season if COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates for the region are low enough.
On December 20 Cuomo said the decision would ultimately be made by the state's health department. A few days later Cuomo announced the Bills submitted a proposal to NYSDOH for 6,700 fans to attend, NYSDOH proposed testing prior to the game and contact tracing afterwards.
The governor said the plan to allow fans to attend a Bills home playoff game is intended as a pilot to find safe ways to reopen more of the economy.