Fans react to news that Chicago will allow fans at baseball games by April



FILE – Chicago Cubs fans stand outside of Wrigley Field before a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Chicago, in this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo. Thousands of fans of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox will get to see their teams play in person this season, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Monday, March 9, 2021. In a news release, Lightfoot said each team will be limited to 20% capacity. (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

Chicago baseball fans will have the opportunity to watch a game in person at Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field — at least, a certain amount.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a tweet announcing that a limited number of fans would be allowed to attend Cubs and White Sox games.

“As a diehard sports fan myself, I’m personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season,”Lightfoot said in a statement. “We’re able to do that thanks to the commitment of our city’s two great baseball franchises who continue to work in close relationship with Chicago’s public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our Covid-19 recovery.”

Both ballparks will be limited to 20 percent capacity. Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, will be allowed 8,122 fans while Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, will be allowed 8,274.

Fans were not allowed in ballparks last season due to the pandemic, but with Covid-19 numbers declining, according to Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, and continued progress in vaccinations, the city believes this is a good first step.

Fans, however, have had a mixed response to the mayor’s decision.

“I’m definitely conflicted with how I feel,” said Cubs fan Greg Albrecht. “When I first saw breaking news regarding Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, my first thought was that they were going to be used as mass vaccination sites. So I was a little disappointed to find out that wasn’t the case. I think that’s what our priority needs to be for the next couple of months.”

On the other side, there is optimism that the decision to let fans back in stadiums makes sense because more and more people are getting vaccinated.

“We’re nearing the point where I think it’s prudent,” said former Cubs season ticket holder Tim McGinnis. “The number of the vaccinated population is going up and the numbers of infected people are going down. So that’s a promising trend. If protocols can be enforced, the outside nature of baseball seems like a good place for fans to return with as minimal risk as possible.

Because of the limited capacity, certain fans are set to be prioritized.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green told the Chicago Sun-Times that the team plans to prioritize season ticket holders to make certain “our most loyal customers who have supported our business have an opportunity to purchase tickets first.”

“Tickets going to season ticket holders first is for sure the most fair thing to do,” Albrecht said. “Those fans have made an investment in their passion for the team, so they should be given priority.”

On the Cubs website, they state that priority for season ticket holders will be based on tenure, and from there, the team will hold a raffle for tickets that will be available for the general public.

On a Zoom call, Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president, chief revenue and marketing officer, said season ticket holders will be given preference. He did not, however, give an answer as to whether non-season ticket holders will have an opportunity to purchase games for the home opener. But any tickets that are left over will be made available to the general public.

“I have no problems with season ticket holders getting first dibs,” said White Sox fan Francisco Zamudio. “I would definitely go to a game if given the opportunity. Baseball — for that matter all sports — just isn’t the same without fans.”

There will be safety measures that must be followed by those who attend a game. In addition to wearing masks, they include:

  • Ballpark entry and amenity zones limited contact entry
  • Cashless concessions and retail
  • Additional restrooms per guest
  • Reduced queueing times
  • Reconfigured indoor spaces

Getting fans in attendance to comply is going to be important for the Cubs and White Sox if they want capacity to be increased down the line.

“I know [the guidelines] won’t be able to be enforced to the letter,” Zamudio said. “Masks will probably always be off since baseball is such a concession stand oriented game. Fans are always eating and drinking, having them put masks back on will be a problem. If I was an at-risk individual I would probably stay away.”

Those concerns are not exclusive to the South Side as Cubs fans share the same concern.

“Alcohol being involved will not help and sports fans have been trending towards more entitled behavior in general anyway,” McGinnis said. “Given there is still a population that is actively anti-mask and any other common sense approach to minimize spread anyway, the employees tasked with enforcement of the rules in a sports environment have a tough task.”

The Cubs home opener is April 1 versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The White Sox home opener is a week later on April 8 where they will take on the Kansas City Royals.