The Buffalo Bills are working on multiple contingencies for fans to attend games in the fall, according to a report from The Buffalo News. That’s not really breaking news, as they likely have had people working on the situation since March.
What is more interesting in the article are some of the numbers and percentages that are being used to determine who can and can’t come into the stadium. Generally speaking, teams are developing protocols for 15%, 33%, and 50% seating in addition to the regular 100%, which would all come with question marks.
Imagine social distancing measurements, where one person sat every three seats then they staggered the rows to maintain a six-foot buffer between the folks sitting in those chairs. You’d have a stadium at 33% capacity where every individual was distanced. Outdoors, that would adhere to every guideline we’ve received in Western New York if they wore masks.
It wouldn’t address families who are quarantining together, though. You could theoretically boost beyond that 33% capacity quickly by using similar distancing measures between groups of season ticket holders instead of individuals; four consecutive seats, then two empty seats on either end with no one sitting directly behind them, as an example. Corporate suites, which are enclosed, could present different challenges, as well.
Even then, it’s going to be difficult to get all the season ticket holders into seats for a single game, let alone sell individual game tickets. Bills season tickets sales were over 58,000 in 2016. You would need an 80% capacity just to fit them in the building that seats roughly 73,000.
In addition to the spacing of fans in the stands, new protocols would certainly be developed for other areas of the game-day experience including entering the gates, ordering food and drinks, bathrooms, masking, moisture barriers, and possibly even body temperature testing.
In the event of a closure, cancellation, or if fans aren’t permitted in the stands, the Bills have previously said ticket holders who bought from the team or NFL-approved outlets would receive a full refund. What they haven’t said is how they will pick from the pool of season ticket holders to get under a mandatory minimum, should it come to that. We also don’t know how many tickets they have made available to the public.
Then there is the matter of the governor. While Bills’ owner and team president Kim Pegula is on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus advisory council for reopening, the plan would still need to be approved locally in Erie County and by the state.
With the ever-fluid nature of the pandemic response, we fully expect the team to be working on multiple scenarios for the fall. Read the full report from The Buffalo News here with quotes from epidemiologists and Erie County executives along with previous quotes from Kim Pegula.