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Ballclubs, Business Owners Say Fans Being Allowed At Wrigley, Guaranteed Rate Fields Is Good News

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thus, news that fans can once again catch a game at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields is a potential boost to dozens of businesses.

Opening Day is just a month away. But instead of empty seats all throughout Wrigley Field, 20 percent of the can now be filled with fans. The same goes for Guaranteed Rate Field.

"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," Mayor Lori 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 partnership with Chicago's public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery."

Some were already trying to get tickets Monday.

"As soon as I heard the news, I had to run over here," said one fan at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The loss of ticket revenue due to the pandemic was a devastating curveball for both the White Sox and Cubs.

"It was an economic hit," said White Sox Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brooks Boyer.

Boyer said this can only help get them out of the red.

"Anything over zero is going to help us rebound economically, and what it means to not only our organization and how we operate our business, but the people that get to work in the ballpark that have been out of work," he said.

"It's really important to open the ballpark – so important," said Wrigleyville restaurant owner and new Illinois Restaurant Association Chairman Sam Sanchez.

Sanchez said getting fans back into the area is key – even if restaurant capacity is still limited – for his employees' bottom line and for his own.

"We're down $7 million in sales year to date," Sanchez, owner of the Old Crow Smokehouse at 3506 N. Clark St., and Moe's Cantina, 3518 N. Clark St., said when asked how hard he was hit last year.

But pandemic restrictions are not going away. In addition to limited capacity, Sanchez's restaurants will still require a phone to see a menu. Tables will all have hand sanitizer, and masks will be required.

At the ballpark, Boyer said, "I think fans can expect prepackaged food options."

Concessions will also be cash-less. Still, all involved said it is at least another step in a positive direction.

"It's emotional," Sanchez said. "I mean, we came very close to losing everything."

Both Sanchez and Boyer said there is no way, yet, to quantify how much this will specifically help their bottom lines.

And because limited capacity means limited concessions and the like, Boyer could not say Monday how many employees they will be hiring to work come Opening Day.

Opening Day for the Cubs is April 1 against the Pirates. With a normal capacity of 41,374, Wrigley Field will be limited to 8,274 fans per game.

The White Sox home opener is scheduled for April 8 against the Royals. With a normal capacity of just over 40,000 guests, Guaranteed Rate Field will be limited to 8,122 fans per game.

The rules are in line with Gov. JB Pritzker's reopening plan for Illinois, which allows outdoor sports stadiums to reopen at 20 percent capacity. Indoor sporting arenas are not allowed to have fans yet under state rules.

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