Fans attending Toronto Blue Jays games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field this season will be separated based on whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Wednesday.
The Blue Jays played 26 games at Sahlen Field last season due to the U.S.-Canada border shutdown, but without fans in attendance. The Jays have been playing their games in Florida to start the season, but their June 1 contest against the Miami Marlins will be held at Sahlen Field and serve as Buffaloians’ first chance to watch the Jays play in person.
Cuomo, speaking at the downtown ballpark Wednesday, announced there will be separate sections for vaccinated fans and unvaccinated fans. Available seats will be 50/50 for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans, as just about 50% of New Yorkers have now been vaccinated.
Both groups of fans will have to wear masks. However, the vaccinated section will have no restrictions on seating, while the unvaccinated section will have six-feet social distancing rules.
Cuomo admitted the different rules are not just about fan safety — it’s also meant to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“You want to sit next to someone, you want to sit next to your friends, you want to sit next to your family? That's the vaccinated section where you sit right next to people in a normal ballgame setting. Unvaccinated, we have to keep the social distancing rule,” Cuomo said. “So it's another positive incentive to get vaccinated.”
The state will also hold a vaccination site at Sahlen Field starting with the June 1 game. Those who get the Johnson & Johnson shot offered at the ballpark will be given a free ticket to a Buffalo Bisons game at Sahlen Field next season.
The separation of fans based on vaccination status is in line with what Cuomo announced last week for New York Yankees and Mets’ MLB games in New York City. Cuomo said the guidelines would indeed apply to the Buffalo Bills, who kick off their NFL season Sept. 12 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“September is a long way away, but today, that is the formula,” he said. “I hope it is better by September.”
The governor also pushed back against any criticism that his new seating system is creating classism between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. He noted the vaccine is free and available to anyone 16 and older.
“Classes suggest a connotation of wealth or access or privilege. It's none of those. It's free,” he said. “You don't want to get a vaccine, that's your business. But I don't want to sit next to you, that's my business.”
Vaccines are still not available to those under 16, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine in kids 12-15 years old. Unvaccinated children will be allowed to sit in the vaccinated section if attending the ballpark with a vaccinated parent, Cuomo clarified.
The governor did not specify capacity numbers, but the Buffalo Bisons announced on Twitter that Sahlen Field will be at 35% capacity for Blue Jays’ games. That would equate to roughly 5,800 fans.
Tickets go on sale starting next week Thursday.