The roar of the crowd should be heard at Bills and Sabres games next fall with the support of Erie County.
All fans attending Buffalo Bills and Sabres home games next season will be required to show proof of COVID vaccination, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced Tuesday.
"Our goal is to have a 100% full house for the Bills and the Sabres starting in the fall," he said. "Our plan is that unless you are vaccinated you will not have entry to the stadium. It is easy. It is safe. We can then guarantee 70,000-plus people at the stadium enjoying the Bills, cheering them on."
Poloncarz says it's a personal choice for people to refuse the vaccine — but that doesn't mean they have to be allowed to go to games. He says there will not be medical or religious exemptions, and both teams support the policy.
"There's no God-given right to attend a football game," he said. "There's not a right to potentially put others at risk because of illness."
Poloncarz says the policy should be in place by the time the Bills start their preseason games this summer. The plan does not need New York State approval since Highmark Stadium and KeyBank Center are both owned by Erie County. He says the easiest way to show proof of vaccination would be to use the state's Excelsior Pass on smart phones, but they're still figuring out what to do with people who don't have phones or come from outside of the state.
"I know people are like, 'wow, that's pretty strict,' but we're trying to protect not only the people in the stands but the players on the field, the concessionaires, our sherriff’s deputies, the security guards, and the best way to do it to ensure everyone's vaccinated," Poloncarz said.
As far as players and team personnel, Poloncarz says that's up to the organizations and leagues.
The Bills and Sabres both released a statement:
"As we did last year, we will continue to cooperate and comply with all New York state and local government regulations regarding our sporting events."