ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When the Buffalo Bills host their first playoff game in 25 years, they will be doing so in front of a live audience.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that Bills Stadium will be open to a limited number of fans for the playoffs. Bills games had been closed to fans for the entire 2020 regular season as part of New York state's COVID-19 protocols regarding professional sports.
The plan allows for 6,772 fans, with attendees needing to register a negative COVID-19 test before being granted entrance. The team will work with the state's Department of Health to conduct contact tracing afterward.
Fans will be socially distanced throughout the stadium, with masks required at all times. Fans who fail to comply will be ejected.
Dr. Howard Zucker, the Commissioner of Health for New York, said last week that this is "a public health model that's never been done anywhere in the country before," calling it a "demonstration project." Cuomo hopes this model can provide an example of how to open future mass-gathering events to the public.
Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula joined Cuomo for the announcement.
Roughly 6,200 tickets will be available for purchase on Thursday to season-ticket holders who opted into purchasing tickets earlier this year. Tickets are not expected to be available to the general public.
If the Bills advance to host a divisional round game, fans also will be permitted to attend. Fans who attended the wild-card game will not be allowed to purchase tickets for the divisional game.
Fans are required to pay for their COVID-19 testing, which will be administered in Lot 4 at Bills Stadium at a "reduced cost" of $63. The cost of the test will be included in the ticket price.
Stadium gates will open two hours before the game with staggered entrance times for fans to minimize crowding -- which was a major concern for Cuomo throughout the process. All concession stands will offer the same items and be cashless.
Tailgating will remain banned. Cuomo recognized the importance of the Bills hosting their first playoff game since 1995 to the western New York community, but also pleaded with the community to remain vigilant.
"For all the Bills fans, please, everyone take these measures seriously," he said. "We have made progress on the COVID virus over the past few weeks. The numbers are down -- we want to keep them down."
"Our objective here is to support our team in as many ways as we can," Terry Pegula said. "I'll tell them to be safe, be smart and most importantly -- be loud."