Bills fans allowed to attend Buffalo’s first home playoff game in 24 years
The Bills will play their first home playoff game since 1996 soon after the calendar flips to 2021. For the first time all season, some of Bills Mafia will be allowed to attend.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon that 6,700 fans would be allowed in Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, for the AFC’s wild card round. The Bills (12-3) will finish the season as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC, guaranteeing a playoff game on Buffalo soil set for either Jan. 9 or Jan. 10. Masks will be required and every attendee will be tested before the game — and no tailgating will be allowed.
“I feel the mood,” Cuomo said in a press conference Wednesday, adding that he plans to attend the game himself after taking a COVID-19 test. “It’s been a long time. They’ve captured an atmosphere and mood that’s been infectious. But we have to take this seriously.”
Under New York state’s orders, fans haven’t been allowed in Bills Stadium all year. That means one of the league’s top fan bases has missed out on watching the best Bills team in decades in person. Cuomo had discussed the possibility of allowing fans in for the postseason at multiple press conferences, and Wednesday he announced that hope would be a reality.
The plan for the 6,700 people allowed into Bills Stadium will be for them all to be tested for COVID-19 before they’re allowed to attend the game. Operations will be overseen by the New York state Health Department. Cuomo wondered a couple days ago, “Can you use testing to reopen a business safely? And can you do it on a large scale?” Opening Bills Stadium, which normally seats 72,000, to fans will certainly test that.
Fans will sit in pods with groups with which they came, and they’ll be separated by rows and seats. There will also be a widespread contact tracing operation in place to use postgame.
Bills fans haven’t been totally left out of the excitement of the season — after Buffalo clinched the AFC East division title, a throng of fans greeted the Bills at the airport in Buffalo. But the prospect of attending a playoff game has brought tons of excitement out of Bills Mafia on Twitter in recent days, and it was Bills players thrilled about the news Wednesday afternoon.
The plan hasn’t been without its critics, though, with the large volume of tests causing some concern. New York State Senator Sue Serino provided pushback recently.
“Truly speechless,” Serino wrote on Twitter. “I’ve received countless calls from family members desperate to see their loved ones in nursing homes who couldn’t find timely access to rapid tests & NHs who haven’t been able to get timely results back for employees. Once again, NY has its priorities backwards.”
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