Still clutching one of your prized Super Bowl souvenirs, the zippered seat cushion from any one of the Buffalo Bills’ four Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s?
Don’t plan on bringing it to any Bills games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, starting Friday night.
And female fans should leave their purses at home, unless they’re small, hand-sized clutch bags.
Those may be the two most noticeable changes being implemented this year, starting with the Bills preseason home opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s a new era in fan-behavior policy, one that doesn’t include those zippered seat cushions, most women’s purses, binge drinking in the parking lots or any drinking or smoking near the entry gates.
What fans will see, though, will be an additional 100-plus uniformed Erie County sheriff’s deputies, a perimeter of security personnel at the entry gates and a universal policy of one-car, one-space parking in all stadium lots.
All those changes, being unveiled by the Bills today, represent a continued attempt to modify stadium rules and policies, to make going to a Bills game safer, more secure, more efficient and more comfortable for the majority of fans.
“We’re so committed to making the game-day experience as safe and enjoyable as it can be,” said Andy Major, Bills vice president of event operations and guest experience. “We’re trying to do the right thing.”
Some of the changes aren’t likely to be too popular.
Judging by what happened in other stadiums across the National Football League over the weekend, the most noticeable effects will be the outlawing of most seat cushions, like the zippered ones from the Bills’ Super Bowl years, and the banning of purses larger than about a hand.
Mini-horror tales already have been told across the league, especially for women bringing in medium-sized purses and then having to take them back to their vehicles or wait for a friend to pick up the bags.
Similarly, Bills fans with Super Bowl cushions will have to give them up at the entry gate or return them to their cars.
These are NFL policies designed to prohibit any kind of opaque bag that can be used to conceal some kind of explosive device. So medium- and large-sized purses, zipped seat cushions, backpacks and fanny packs all have become endangered species at NFL games.
The Bills, though, say they’ve been able to tweak the league’s seat-cushion policy a bit.
“We have quite a lot of fans who bring seat cushions and sit on the metal bleachers,” Major explained. “So we will allow seat cushions as long as they don’t contain arm rests, zippers, pockets, flaps or metal backs. But if they have zippers, they’re out.”
Among other new policies and procedures are the following:
• The addition of 128 new Erie County sheriff’s deputies to the security force, both inside and outside the stadium, to provide an increased visibility.
That means that fans will see more sheriff’s deputies in the parking lots, outside the entry gates and inside the stadium, Major said.
“Wherever there’s a uniformed officer, there’s just more responsibility from the fans, and they feel safer and more secure,” he added.
• The creation of a “security perimeter” outside the entry gates and the banning of drinking and smoking near those gates.
When pressed, the Bills say that ban may take effect roughly 25 to 50 feet from the entry gates.
“We want to create a more comfortable atmosphere for fans entering the stadium,” Major said. “It also will help create a more efficient entry process.”
• The banning of binge drinking in the parking lots, with no kegs, funnels or glass bottles allowed.
“We’ve gotten a lot of comments from fans tailgating responsibly about some of the knuckleheads around them,” Major said.
• The new Blue Team Tailgate Patrol, which will provide free recycling and trash bags to tailgaters, who then can leave their bags at the foot of the tailgate area.
• The paving of parking lots 5A and 5B, which will allow for the use of the one-car, one-space plan in all stadium lots.
That plan allows for vehicles to be parked sequentially, in the next available space.
Critics have blasted that plan for being less fan-friendly, by preventing fans from saving adjacent spots for their tailgating friends.
But the Bills say that the previous park-anywhere plan left cars and pedestrians zigzagging in various directions and left many fans grumbling that a row supposedly was “filled” when there were plenty of empty spaces.
The Bills also have cited previous cases of kids darting out of empty parking spaces into traffic and problems for emergency vehicles passing through the haphazard parking lanes.
As Russ Brandon, Bills president and CEO, has said, “We will not apologize for fan safety.”