BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Officials estimate that the 716 area code will run out of phone numbers soon, so Western New York is getting a new area code. Any changes have to be approved by the state, and the well will run dry in early 2024.
Even so, current residents won’t have to change a thing. The plan calls for those who have the 716 area code to keep it, with newcomers being assigned a new number. The new area code will be overlaid on 716 for those newcomers.
“Let’s say you have kids, or whatever the situation is, and they get a cell phone later down the road,” said Heidi Wayman, administrator, North American Numbering Plan. “If your carrier is out of numbers, you would get the new area code at that point. You may have the possibility of having both area codes in your own family.”
Locals only had to start dialing 10-digits for local landline calls last year. Still, Western New York has had the 716 area code since before most of us were born. In 1947, it ran past Rochester. In 2001, it was divided in half, with Rochester taking on 585 and Buffalo keeping 716.
“I am not sure I like that idea of adding a new area code or even another one at all. But I guess that’s progress, right?” said Bills fan Laurie Beck. “People are moving in and I think it will always be the 716.”
716 is as recognizable to a Bills fan as “Shout” or the “Sabre Dance” to Sabres fans. In fact, if you go to Highmark stadium, it’s right there for the world to see—716. Western New Yorkers take great pride in those three digits, with folks doggedly maintaining their legacy cellphone numbers even when they move out of the area.
Nate Mroz sells a wide variety of 716 gear and paraphernalia at his four BFLO Stores. He said that the new area code could offer a unique marketing strategy: newcomer versus legacy. “I can actually see something unique come up where the 716 becomes more of a retro element, sort of like the Bills’ old logo has become so relevant now,” Mroz said. “It might be kind of a neat thing! We could do a playoff of the old and the new. Maybe do some neat new designs with that.”