Poloncarz doubts New Era Field will be packed this season

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The Buffalo Bills released its 2020 schedule on Thursday night, which features the team playing in four primetime games coming up this season. Two of the primetime games scheduled will take place in Orchard Park at New Era Field, starting with a Thursday Night Football matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 15, and later in the year with a Sunday Night Football matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 13.

Despite the schedule being released, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the future of these games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Football League has set some contingency plans in case the season needs to be pushed back further, but the plan right now is to kick off the 2020 season on time, starting with the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 10 with the Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

Buffalo is currently set to open its season on Sunday, Sept. 13 against the New York Jets at New Era Field, which will be the third time in four seasons that both teams will meet in the opener of their seasons. However, one of the more pressing questions heading into the season is if there will be any fans in attendance for these games to take place this season.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in his coronavirus briefing on Friday that he is uncertain if there will be any fans to be in attendance for the Bills this season.

"Just because they announced the season schedule doesn't mean there actually will be fans in those stands. I don't know. And there could be a limit on fans by a percentage of individuals," he said. "Even if you did it at 25% of the fans, that's still roughly 20,000 people, and then you include the other folks that need to be in the stadium for a football team. This is all new, we don't know, and I don't think we're going to know until probably August."

.@markpoloncarz: I would highly doubt we're going to say a packed house at the stadium this year @WKBW pic.twitter.com/wXw9xOHlLo

— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 8, 2020

The Bills also released its preseason schedule for the 2020 season, however, they have not announced any dates or times for those games.

Poloncarz is not sure what the Bills, or the NFL for that matter, is going to do with the preseason and regular season, but he knows that the organization is taking this matter very seriously.

"The Bills are very concerned. They're exceptionally concerned about this," Poloncarz said. "Their statement to myself, as well as their statement to other members of our staff is that they're going to follow the guide from the state and local resources. They're not just going to do it on their own. And we're never going to put the public in a situation where they're at risk."

On top of working with the local and state resources to address this situation, Poloncarz says that the Bills are working with the NFL and what the league's recommendations will be with the season set to begin in a few months.

"You have to remember the most important thing you can do is save lives," he said. "I think we all want to see this football season, they look to have a great team, but that is not the No. 1 priority at the Erie County Department of Health and my office right now. And the Bills agree. They realize the No. 1 priority is getting through this crisis to try and re-open business. I would highly doubt that we're going to see a packed house at the stadium this year. If any fans are allowed, I imagine it's going to be at a percentage of the overall capacity. But if people are expecting there to be football games with 72,000 screaming fans in the crowd, it's probably not going to happen."

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