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BILLS TRACK DOWN NEW SOURCE OF FANS TO ATTEND HOME GAMES

The Buffalo Bills offense may not be on track, but upstate New York fans certainly are with a special train carrying a cheering section to the Nov. 24 game here with the New York Jets.

The first run of the "Bills Express" sold 800 seats in three days to fans in Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. And when Amtrak added two more cars with 120 seats, those sold out as well, bringing the total to 920.

Still, more than 2,000 people remain on a waiting list for the $65 train and game ticket package.

"We weren't surprised at the success," said John Livsey, Bills director of marketing, "but we were surprised at the magnitude of it. The response was incredible between the amount of the calls and the excitement of the people calling."

The team wants to offer the Bills Express train to all home games next year and expand it to Toronto and Cleveland.

The Bills trains leave Albany at 6 a.m. and arrive at the Amtrak station in Depew at 11 a.m. There fans board buses for the rest of the trip.

But next year, the Bills want to take the fans right to Orchard Park.

One proposal calls for construction of a train platform where tracks run next to Taylor Road, about one mile east of Rich Stadium. Passengers could then disembark directly to buses. The estimated cost for the platform is $1 million, but funding is uncertain.

For people striving to keep the Bills in Buffalo, the new train taps a potentially huge new market. Most of the 920 people riding the rails to the New York Jets games are fresh customers. Only 32 already had tickets when they called about the train.

"It's important we keep the attendance strong so we can keep the Bills in Buffalo," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, a longtime rail advocate who helped with the talks.

The Bills have been working on the project for two years, Livsey said. It's part of the team's effort to broaden its base and become more of a regional franchise. The deal was described as good for Amtrak, the Bills and for fans.

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