Highmark Stadium returning to full capacity for Bills season

Orchard Park

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Bills say Highmark Stadium will return to full capacity for the 2021 season after learning guidance from New York State.

According to the team, both vaccinated and unvaccinated fans are welcome to attend home games. Under CDC guidelines, unvaccinated individuals will still have to wear masks.

The Bills say additional information in regards to other protocols will come out at a later date.

On Sunday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced that the county was rescinding its vaccine requirements to attend games.

“It just didn’t feel right considering where we are with COVID today,” he explained on Monday. “And the vast majority of the population in Erie County that are adults have been vaccinated.”

It was disputed whether Poloncarz had the authority to enforce such a vaccination requirement at the county-owned stadium. Governor Andrew Cuomo was one of the people claiming he didn’t.

“Legally, the state would have to sign off on it,” Cuomo said in April.

Poloncarz, however, continues to insist he has the power to do it. He said the county could revisit the issue in the fall if the pandemic gets worse.

The county executive noted he hasn’t personally spoken to the governor about the issue, and that he hasn’t spoken to Cuomo at all in months.

“Part of that is my own decision because of the issues he’s been dealing with I think need to be resolved,” Poloncarz said.

Cuomo is facing multiple investigations. Federal investigators are looking into his administration’s handling of nursing homes during the COVID pandemic. The New York State attorney general is leading an investigation of sexual harassment allegations against the governor. And the state assembly judiciary committee is conducting an impeachment investigation.

Mark Ebeling, the owner of Danny’s South in Orchard Park, doesn’t care whether fans are unvaccinated or vaccinated. He’s just happy that Highmark Stadium will be filled to capacity, and hopes many of those fans walk into his bar.

“The next few months, I’m sure out phone is going to ring off the wall for our seasonal parking, motorhome parking, and limo parking,” Ebeling said.

Danny’s does about half of its business with Canadian fans on Bills gamedays, Ebeling said. So he’s also keeping an eye on what’s happening at the border between the United States and Canada, which is still closed to non-essential traffic. For now, that closure will last until July 21, although it has been extended on a month-by-month basis throughout the pandemic.

“I talk to a couple companies out there. There’s a limo company that I deal with and he called me. He’s trying to book for the October 3rd game, which is telling me something,” he said.

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