CHEEKTOWGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Either the Buffalo Bills will beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night and advance to Super Bowl LV, or they will lose and their season will come to an end. Either way, NFTA Police Chief George Gast expects a large crowd to gather at the airport to welcome the team home from Missouri.
“A larger crowd when they win,” Gast predicted.
The chief says aside from transit officers, police from Cheektowaga, Depew, Amherst, the New York State Police, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office will be on scene. Formulating a plan for the night is a “process”, he added. It includes traffic control and ensuring people stay out of secure areas. For several reasons, Gast is encouraging people not to come out and stay home.
“You have vehicular traffic on Cayuga. You’re going to have vehicular traffic in the parking lots. You are going to have a large crowd and the players exiting the parking lot,” he said. “And last but not least, the COVID issue.”
That issue is what concerned public officials in December after the Bills game in Denver. The Bills clinched the AFC East title that night. An estimated 3,500-4,000 fans greeted the team at the airport. Afterward Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “Large gatherings should concern everyone.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz added, “We were very disappointed about what we saw with regards to the mass gathering to welcome the team back.”
Gast, while encouraging everyone who shows up to wear a mask and act socially responsible, suggested there was no way for police to block off he area.
“There’s no way for us to control that,” the chief said. “We can encourage people to stay home and watch it. But as far as isolating the area or telling people they can’t get in, what we would do in that case, we would take a happy crowd and turn them into an angry crowd.”
“One of our concerns is if we start closing down our space, closing down roads, closing down parking lots, we are going to push the crowd and the parkers back into the Maryvale community,” Gast added. “That’s really not fair for those people on the other side of Cayuga.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.