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Bills Stadium hosted 10 games this past NFL campaign. All eight of those which were on the team’s regular season slate were played without fans in attendance due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The world still has a COVID-19 problem on its hands, however, recent measures both in and out of the sporting world give Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula some optimism for 2021.
Chatting via the team’s official podcast, Pegula gave two reasonings for why she believes next season could be better in terms of fan attendance. First, the vaccines that are currently being rolled out. Next, the Bills did find a way to host fans in the postseason after all, so why not in 2021 to some extent?
“I think it will be better than this year,” Pegula said. “As the season progresses and as the vaccine becomes more mainstream, I think that will help us a lot to get back to those years where we had sellouts.”
In those playoff games, 6,700 people were allowed into the venue. While Pegula does not make a prediction as to a set number of fans that could potentially come to games next season, she appears to lay out a plan that as time goes on, improvements should follow suit.
“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to be at a better place but also being realistic that we do have a lot of hurdles to get through. That’s next season, that’s September. A lot can happen between now and September so I’m hoping for all good things and looking forward to having our fans back,” she said.
In order to increase fan attendance next season, that process isn’t just up to the Bills, though. There’s the team, the local government (Erie County) who owns the stadium, and the state government. All three have to get on the same page to do so.
Perhaps a third reason for optimism in Bills ownership is the shoutout the state gave the team recently. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that some indoor seating will soon be allowed at sporting events.
Via a release from New York State, Cuomo says on Feb. 23 indoor sporting venues will be allowed to host 10 percent of seating. While still a low number, Cuomo credited the Bills’ work in getting people inside for their postseason games as a reason for the Feb. 23 update.
“Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of this virus. Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and now we are taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies, but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible,” Cuomo said.
Those openings will require safety measures in order for people to attend, however, it remains to be seen exactly which measures will be in place in the fall when the Bills get back to playing again. As Pegula says, that’s a long time from now, so there’s no reason to speculate what type of measurements could be in place just yet.
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