The opportunity for fans to attend Major League Baseball games in Buffalo this summer is still not a certainty, but Buffalo Bisons executives reiterated Friday that they’re pushing to make it happen.
“If we’re able to do that — and openly, we are trying to do that — that’s going to be one of the main goals of why we’re doing this,” Bisons GM Anthony Sprague said while announcing numerous upgrades to Sahlen Field that have the Major Leagues in mind.
“I think it’ll certainly build the baseball brand in Buffalo even more,” he added. “When we hosted the (Triple-A) All-Star Game a few years ago, it showed me truly that this is a baseball town. The ability to have Major League Baseball here, I think it’ll be certainly a very hot ticket, if we’re able to do it and when we’re able to do it.”
There are two main factors in play: First is whether the Toronto Blue Jays will return to Buffalo for a second season while the Canadian government continues to restrict international travel. The second factor is whether New York State will allow the stadium to host fans.
Both of those outcomes favor Sahlen Field opening its gates to fans. But the Bisons don’t want to get ahead of themselves.
“Whatever the guidelines are at that point, that’s what we would follow,” said Mike Buczkowski, President of Rich Baseball Operations.
The Blue Jays are currently playing “home” games at their Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Florida. The Jays have announced plans to play in Dunedin through May but could return to Buffalo as early as June, though that remains unofficial. Buczkowski said the upgrades to Sahlen Field are expected to be completed by late May.
Large venues in New York can currently welcome up to 20% of their total capacity, meaning about 3,300 fans could watch the Blue Jays in Buffalo right now. Sahlen Field’s capacity is listed at 16,600.
“Baseball fans, I think, would embrace the fact that we can finally, potentially, have Major League games here that they can attend,” Sprague said. “Last year it was so odd with no fans, it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we all kind of talked about, but once the games were actually here and going on, the fans were missing.
“It’s such an odd circumstance to not have fans. But coming back to this and giving them the ability to actually come and actually enjoy it and not have to dangerously stand on the thruway to try to catch a peek of it, that was one of the factors we thought about — if we can share this with the City of Buffalo, that was something we wanted to do as well.”
The Jays played 26 home games in Buffalo last season, going 17-9 at Sahlen Field. The Bisons said the dimensions of Sahlen Field will remain the same as in 2020.
The Bisons will be playing in Trenton, N.J. while the upgrades to the stadium are completed, and will stay there as long as their parent Blue Jays are in Buffalo. If at any point the Jays are allowed to return to Toronto, the Bisons will come home to Buffalo.
Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.