New York state officials are evaluating a proposal by the Buffalo Bills that would allow 6,700 fans at their home playoff game next month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
The Bills, winners of the AFC East title, will host their first home playoff game since 1995. Bills Stadium has been without fans all season.
Cuomo said a proposal that would require rapid testing for COVID-19, combined with the ability for postgame contact tracing, is being studied. He said it could serve as a model for how large-scale events could be held in the future.
“We would like to do it,” Cuomo said during his COVID-19 briefing from the state capital of Albany. “Nothing is final.”
Fans also would be required to wear masks and be subject to ejection from the stadium if they didn’t.
The Bills haven’t offered details about their proposal, including how the small number of fans would be chosen. The stadium seats approximately 73,000, so 6,700 fans would fill about 9.2 percent of capacity.
“We are continuing to work with the Governor’s Office regarding the details of a plan to possibly host a limited amount of spectators at our home playoff game. Nothing has been finalized at this point,” team spokesman Derek Boyko told The Buffalo News in an email.
Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to attend the game.
“I would like to be at that game — a playoff game — as much as anyone,” he said Sunday. “This has been a long time coming for Buffalo, and there are no fans like Buffalo Bills fans.”
And the fervor of Bills’ fans has state officials worried about the potential spread of COVID-19 through home watch parties and such.
Thousands of fans showed up the meet the team at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport early Sunday morning, hours after the Bills clinched the division title when they beat the Broncos in Denver.
“That’s how disease spreads,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner.
After Cuomo spoke on Wednesday, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said his administration is out of the loop on the potential of hosting fans. He told The Buffalo News that the county doesn’t have the resources for the required COVID-19 testing and contact tracing for an event of this size.
The Bills (11-3) currently are the second seed in the AFC. If the season ended today, they would host the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round of the playoffs. A win in that game would give them a second home contest in the AFC divisional round.
–Field Level Media