Bills ready to welcome fans after a “long week” of preparations

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bills staff is at work Friday, putting the final touches on their plan to welcome fans into the stadium Saturday when the team plays Indianapolis in a Wild Card playoff game.

“It’s been a long week,” Bills Vice President of Operations and Guest Experience Andy Major admitted.

“We’re ready for tomorrow,” he added.

The Bills distributed 6,772 tickets to the game, which will be the first playoff game in the stadium since 1996. However, only those who passed a COVID-19 test from BioReference in the stadium lot earlier this week will be able to get in. They will have to show proof of their negative test, along with their ID, at the gate.

“If there is a fan out there that thought, ‘Boy I thought I’d know about my test result by now,’ just call our ticket office,” Major advised. “We’ll connect with our BioReference partners. We’ll figure out the discrepancy there.”

Major said the testing event was “very successful”. On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said about 7,000 people were tested, and the positivity rate was 1.9%.

Stadium lots will open at 10:30 on Saturday morning. According to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, parking pass holders will be able to access Lots 2 and 6 from Abbott Rd. All fans who have tickets can enter the stadium between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Then, starting at 11:30, fans must enter during an assigned 10-minute window prior to kickoff.

“They’ll come in. They’ll park. They should not tailgate. There’s no tailgating. They should just go to the gate at their assigned time,” Major said. “If they are for whatever reason a few minutes later or a few minutes early, we’re going to take care of them.”

Fans will be required to wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking.

“Even when you’re chewing and swallowing, we expect fans to be wearing their masks,” said Major.

Bills fan Patrick Gavigan said this will be one of the biggest games the team has had in 20 years. He thinks the team and state have a good plan in place.

“It’s definitely something that raises questions with COVID,” Gavigan said. “But I think that the state has come up with the right plan and they saved it for the right time.”

Part of that plan calls for contact tracing after the game. A New York State Department of Health spokesperson said fans who feel unwell during the two-week period following the game should speak with their health care provider, and be tested for the coronavirus.

“(The New York State Department of Health) will be closely monitoring all COVID lab reports for the two-week period following the game and cross matching results to a list of attendees,” the spokesperson said.

“If any game attendees are found to be positive, (we) will initiate a rapid response that will include using information from the game such as seating charts and timed entry to identify and trace contacts,” he added.

Major said the Bills are prepared to participate in that process as well.

“We’ll do whatever we can do to support BioReference and the Department of Health with that,” he pledged, “whether it’s ticket information, fan information, video surveillance that they may need to tap into.”

If the Bills beat the Colts on Saturday, they will host a second playoff game next weekend. Governor Andrew Cuomo is yet to say whether fans would be allowed at that game. Major said the team hopes the state observes Saturday’s game, and concludes fans wore their masks and stayed safe.

“That’s our hope, is that we get some kind of an answer from the state the following day or so,” Major said.

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.

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