It's shocking enough that the Buffalo Bills have secured a home playoff game. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tossed in another stunner on Wednesday, announcing that thousands of Bills fans can attend the game next month in person — and he'll be one of them.
"We're all feeling the excitement," Cuomo said Wednesday in his dailybriefing. "We've all wanted the Buffalo Bills to be good, it's been a long time, and that team has a charisma and personality that is infectious."
Cuomo said this is a first-in-the-nation pilot program for resuming live events during the pandemic that will require all attendees to test negative for the coronavirus before being admitted into the stadium. And it coincides with the Bills' first home playoff game in a quarter-century.
Under the plan, about 6,200 fans can buy tickets and watch the game at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park — which seats nearly 72,000 people. Another 500 tickets will be set aside for team sponsors and family members. All attendees must test negative for COVID-19 before entering, Cuomo said.
A $63 fee for testing will be factored into the ticket costs. There will be drive-thru testing in the stadium's parking lots.
Fans must wear masks and maintain social distancing during the game, and tailgating prior to the game is banned. There will also be required contact tracing after the game to keep tabs on any potential spread of the disease.
Cuomo said the game is an experiment to see if rapid testing can help reopen parts of the economy in the coming months, as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down during the early stages of vaccine distribution. If successful, the plan could be expanded to other events and businesses.
"If we can figure out how to use testing and rapid testing — some of these, you can get the results within 20 minutes — then you can start to reopen businesses safely and smartly by using those rapid tests," the governor said.
But he noted the game also has the advantage of being held in an outdoor stadium, which is safer than indoor events. "It's all the difference in the world between an outdoor and an indoor venue," Cuomo said.
The wild card playoffs game will be held on either January 9 or 10, with the time and rival team yet to be determined. Tickets go on sale Thursday and will be available to season ticketholders who had purchased tickets earlier in 2020.
The Bills are famous for their "Bills Mafia" fanbase, a particularly passionate group of fans known for, among other things, crashing through folding tables prior to games which has remained devoted to the team despite its unrivaled streak of defeat. In the surreal year of 2020, the Bills have pulled off their best season in a generation, winning their first AFC East division title since 1995.
Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula joined Cuomo's press conference virtually to celebrate the game-changing news.
"Remember, our objective here is to support our team in as many ways as we can," Terry Pegula said. "I ask them to be safe, be smart and most importantly, be loud."
for more features.