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The Buffalo Bills will be allowed to have nearly 7,000 fans in the stands when they host their first playoff game in 24 years, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
They will be the first spectators at a professional sporting event in New York state since the coronavirus brought sports to a halt in mid-March. Bills Stadium in Orchard Park seats about 72,000.
To be admitted into the stadium, each of the 6.772 ticket holders must have a recent negative COVID-19 test conducted through the NFL's testing partner, Bioreference Laboratories. The $63 cost of the test will be folded into the price of the ticket.
"Every fan must test negative before game, wear a mask & social distance. There will be post-game contact tracing," Cuomo tweeted.
"To Bills fans -- be smart."
Fans will not be allowed to tailgate at Bills Stadium. Cuomo previously said that any fan who fails to comply with the mask rule will be ejected from the stadium.
The Bills (12-3) will host a game either Jan. 9 or 10 in the AFC wild-card round of the playoffs. Their opponent will not be determined until the conclusion of play in Week 17 this weekend.
To this point, the Bills and the metro New York teams -- the Knicks, Nets, Mets and Yankees -- have played without fans, as have major college teams such as Syracuse. The U.S. Open golf and tennis tournaments also were held this year sans spectators.
Only Army football was allowed to play before a limited number of fans because the campus in West Point, N.Y., is on federal land and not subject to the state ban.
In Buffalo, the bulk of the tickets will be made available to Bills season ticket holders who opted into purchasing tickets earlier this year, and they will be notified of their chance to buy them, based on seniority.
These undoubtedly will be a hot ticket.
The Bills last played a home playoff game on Dec. 28, 1996 -- a 30-27 loss to Jacksonville. The tough Jaguars' defense held the Bills -- led by future Hall of Fame members Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas -- to 308 total yards. Kelly was 21 of 39 passing for 239 yards that day, and Thomas ran for 50 yards.
The Bills have qualified for the playoffs four times since then, all losses.
-Field Level Media