CHICAGO (CBS) -- A limited number of Cubs and White Sox fans will be allowed to watch their teams play in person on Opening Day, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office announced guidelines for attendance at ballparks for the start of the season.
Capacity at both Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field will be limited to 20%, with groups required to remain six feet apart.
"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 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."
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% capacity. Indoor sporting arenas are not allowed to have fans yet under state rules.
Lightfoot's office said both ballparks could potentially expand capacity to more fans as vaccines become more widely available. However, an increase in COVID cases could also result in the ballparks being forced to close to fans again.
"We are proud of the important and historic role baseball plays in our country, offering respite during some of the most difficult times or in providing fans with a sense of comfort when circumstances seemed uncertain," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "We believe this is a moment when baseball can indeed serve our fans and our communities again as we all hope for a gradual return to normal. It's why we applaud Mayor Lightfoot, the leadership role she and Governor Pritzker have played for our city and state, and the decision today — guided by an unwavering commitment to public health and safety — to allow fans to return to Guaranteed Rate Field for Opening Day."
"We appreciate Mayor Lightfoot's leadership and share the City of Chicago's commitment to safely welcoming fans back to baseball," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "The return of fans is incredibly meaningful to our players, our City and the game we all love. Nothing can replace the energy and enthusiasm our beloved fans bring to the Friendly Confines each and every game. We're ready and excited for our much-anticipated Wrigley Field reunion."
In addition to the capacity limits, the Cubs and White Sox also will follow Major League Baseball guidelines for to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including: limited contact entry to the ballparks, cashless concessions and retail, additional restrooms per guest, reduced queueing times, and reconfigured indoor spaces.
All guests also will be required to wear face coverings, and visitors to the ballparks can expect to see comprehensive screening and sanitization procedures.
"With our COVID-19 numbers declining and our vaccination efforts successful and ongoing, this is truly a milestone for the city's reopening," said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. "As our favorite places in the city reopen, it is important we remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health guidance so we can enjoy everything Chicago has to offer."
The White Sox said protocols at Guaranteed Rate Field can be found at whitesox.com/safety, and will include:
- Physically distanced seating assigned by pods of one to six
- Mobile ticketing for contactless entry and contact tracing
- Mandatory masks worn properly by everyone ages two and up
- Maintaining physical distancing around and throughout the ballpark property
- Numerous hand sanitizer stations for fans
- Limited menu of individually packaged food items will be available
- No bags will be allowed (except for small clutch purses, medical bags or diaper bags when infant is present)
- Enhanced cleaning protocols, including frequent disinfecting using hospital-grade supplies on high-touch areas
White Sox season ticket holders will be notified by email regarding access to tickets. Other fans can register for a ticket availability alert at whitesox.com/safety.
Meantime, Cubs season ticket holders will get priority access to tickets next week. The Cubs also are offering other fans a presale program to register for random drawings to win a chance to buy tickets. The cut-off date for the first drawing is Friday, March 19. For the first homestand, winners will have the opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets Tuesday, March 23, with any remaining tickets going on sale to the general public Wednesday, March 24. Private spaces for groups of eight or more also will be available. More details will be announced Tuesday.
The Cubs also will have similar safety guidelines for fans, including:
- Limited-capacity, pod-style seating for physical distancing
- Required masking for all guests two years or older
- Touchless entry screening process
- Tickets available exclusively as mobile tickets
- Cashless retail and concessions
- Thorough sanitization procedures
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