Orchard Park N.Y. (WIVB) – There’s promising news for Buffalo Bills fans, local leaders say they’re getting a little closer to a decision that would allow at least some fans into the stadium for the next home game.
“That would be awesome. I miss our fans,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott during a press conference Monday afternoon.
He says after being on the road in Miami, which has fans in the stadium, he noticed how different the experience was during Sunday’s game against the Ram at Bills Stadium.
“There’s a marks difference,” he said. “Then I’ve watched some games where there’s been some fans and again even though those numbers are smaller compared to what we’re used to, there is a noticeable difference in the stadium and the environment, the atmosphere.”
It’s a difference even Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul picked up on.
“Hey, I get it,” Hochul said. “Countless times during yesterday’s game where I was like, turn up the applause! Fire them up! Make it louder! I want to hear a louder crowd noise and you know it’s frustrating but we’re still in a pandemic.”
Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz say they’ve been in talks with the state and the Bills on if and when fans can be brought back inside the stadium.
“We’re in conversations. I just want to say it is something I would love to see but I’m also very cognizant of the fact that we’ve worked extremely hard to have a one percent infection rate in this area,” Hochul said. “It wasn’t long ago that it was approaching two percent and we’re anxious about that.”
If fans are welcomed back seats would be offered to season ticket holders first based on seniority. Fans will also have to arrive at a certain gate and at certain time that way everyone does not enter or exit the stadium all at once. The county is looking to have the stadium at 10 percent capacity, which will be a little more than 7,000 fans.
“We do believe that based on the size of the facility, the size of the concourses, the bathroom sizes and spreading out in the plan that the Bills have come up with,” Poloncarz said.
“Whatever protocols are in place, that’s what we go by,” McDermott said. “We would love to have them but even if they’re not in our stadium we know that they’re in our hearts. When we go on the road and there are fans allowed, we know our fans are going to take up most of those seats anyways.”
Fans are hoping they’ll be allowed in the stadium at the next home game on October 15th, which is a Thursday night primetime game against reigning super bowl Champions the Kansas City Chiefs.
Poloncarz says for that to happen they’ll need approval in the next few days.
News 4 reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but have not heard back.
Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.