Sports

Chicago allows 20% capacity for the opening day

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CHICAGO – Chicago is lifting some coronavirus restrictions in time for MLB’s opening day, allowing fans to return to games at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field for the first time in more than a year.

The rules, announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s government on Monday, will go into effect on April 1st, the opening day for the Cubs. The home opener for the White Sox is April 8th.

“As a die-hard sports fan myself,” said Lightfoot, “I am personally delighted that Chicago is taking its first cautious steps to ensure that our beloved baseball stadiums are safely reopened to fans this season.”

Capacity is initially capped at 20% for each venue, with a minimum of 6 feet between parties. At Wrigley Field, the National League’s oldest stadium, entry is limited to 8,274 fans per game. The Cubs did not report positive COVID-19 tests among their players in the 2020 season.

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“Nothing can replace the energy and excitement that our beloved fans bring to the Friendly Confines at every game,” said Tom Ricketts, Cubs Executive Chairman. “We are ready and excited for our much-anticipated Wrigley Field meeting.”

With Guaranteed Rate Field the capacity is limited to 8,122 fans.

“We believe this is a moment when baseball can truly serve our fans and our communities again as we all hope for a gradual return to normal,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox.

Lightfoot thanked both teams to work closely with the city health authorities to develop a plan for the safe reception of fans that also “provides a pathway to safely increase stadium capacity as we near our COVID-19 recovery.” The city decided it was appropriate to reopen to a limited number of fans, citing “low to moderate risk levels” for test positives, cases and ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The Cubs and White Sox will include new measures to comply with local mandates and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including restricting access to the ballpark, cashless concessions and merchandise sales, and reducing the number of lines inside. Everyone has to wear a mask.

With the Chicago announcement and California’s decision on Friday to allow baseball stadiums to include outdoor fans, at least 25 of the 30 MLB teams have announced plans to allow fans to be in the stands in time for opening day. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 40% of annual sales for baseball teams come from stadium experiences, including ticket sales and concessions.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I thank Mayor Lightfoot for her shared commitment to the responsible recovery of Chicago attendance in accordance with Protocols to Promote Safety,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred. “MLB will continue to urge fans to follow health and safety best practices in the fight against COVID-19.”

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Melinda Martin