BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Bisons General Manager Anthony Sprague watched with pride on Tuesday night. It was the first Major League Baseball game in Sahlen Field history, and the first big league game in Buffalo since 1915. Sprague and the Bisons organization had a big part in getting there. But he noticed something was missing.
“I didn’t know what it was until after the game was over. It just felt really weird and odd,” Sprague said. “The fact that there were not fans in the building changed the atmosphere completely.”
Even though the Toronto Blue Jays are playing their 2020 home schedule at Sahlen Field this year, fans are not allowed in. New York State guidance for professional sports competitions says they’re not even allowed to congregate outside the stadium.
That did happen, however. A group of people gathered right next to the on-ramp from Oak Street to I-190, trying to glance over a fence onto the field. Sprague said the organization did a great job with the execution of its security plan on Tuesday. But that gathering did concern him.
“It makes us nervous and scared,” he said. “We just want people to be safe.”
The congregation also worried Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. He pointed out the risk is two-pronged: the issue of people gathering in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and people being so close to traffic.
“(Tuesday) was the first game. We know people wanted to see it. They wanted to be there. Hopefully the novelty has worn off a little bit, and we won’t see what we saw,” Brown said.
The mayor said Buffalo police and the New York State Police were discussing how to address the issue.
“We will be making frequent checks of that area to make sure people aren’t congregating there,” said state police Captain David Denz, who pointed out that area is state-owned property.
“It’s an unsafe spot to watch the game,” Denz added.
The Blue Jays will be back in action Wednesday night, wrapping up a two-game series with the Miami Marlins. The game will be the second of 27 the Blue Jays are playing at Sahlen Field in 2020.
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.