MESA, Ariz. — It’s happening, Cubs fans. After months of speculation, you will be able to see baseball this season at Wrigley Field.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that the Cubs would be allowed to host fans at Wrigley at 20% capacity starting on Opening Day on April 1. The team will be able to sell 8,274 tickets in pod-style seating arrangements.
The Cubs had no fans at Wrigley during the 2020 regular season, and only team employees, staff and families of players were able to attend their two-game series against the Marlins in the postseason.
‘‘One of the things that’s different from last year to this year — and we used this with MLB, as well as the city and state — is now we have some experience with outdoor events,’’ Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Last year, we were trying to convince [MLB] or the city and state to let us reopen during the season. We didn’t have any experience with this, and I think that was somewhat concerning to everyone.’’
‘‘This plan was many months in the making, and it really has revolved around understanding the science of transmission of this disease,’’ said Dr. Robert Citronberg, an infectious-disease specialist affiliated with Lutheran General Hospital. ‘‘Knowing what we know about how far the virus can travel, where it lands, the effects that masks have on reducing the spread of the virus, we were able to draft a plan that really is completely science-based.’’
Modifications are already underway at Wrigley, with the Cubs making sure they follow city, state and Centers for Disease Control guidelines to ensure fans can return safely.
Fans will be screened in a touchless process before being allowed into the ballpark, and all tickets will be handled electronically. An additional feature that can be expected is the introduction of cash-free concessions.
There also will be sanitizing stations throughout the concourse and in various locations in and around Wrigley. The Cubs have been using the system this spring at Sloan Park in Mesa.
‘‘I think what’s really important to emphasize here is our No. 1 priority is to safely return fans back to the ballpark,’’ Kenney said. ‘‘I mean, one thing we know is if any public-health official traces a COVID transmission back to our games, we will go from whatever level of fans we have at that moment to zero.’’
Fans will be put into zones as they enter the ballpark and will have concessions, retail and restrooms designated for their zone. The plan is designed to limit contact points among fans.
Because Cubs tickets are usually a hot commodity, with only a select number available to begin the season, there have been some questions about whether fans would have to pay premium prices. The Cubs were unable to generate any game-day revenue in 2020 because of the pandemic.
‘‘From a ticket-price standpoint, our plan is to keep prices flat,’’ vice president of sales and marketing Colin Faulkner said. ‘‘So [we’re] not planning to increase prices. As far as access with limited capacity, we also had thousands of season-ticket holders who left their money on account with us for the last 18 months. So we’re going to prioritize allowing our season-ticket holders to have access to purchasing first.
‘‘It is also important that we continue to provide access tickets to the general public. So while the majority of the tickets will go to season-ticket holders, we are going to have a process for people to enter for the opportunity to purchase single-game tickets to the public. . . . We’re trying to balance both.’’
Other amenities, such as the Wrigleyville rooftops, also will be open to fans this season. The rooftops fall under the city’s bar and restaurant guidelines, so they’ll be able to operate at 50% capacity. The rooftops were open to select fans last season.
Gallagher Way, which was closed last season, will be open this season, but it will serve a different function. Unlike in years past, when fans would be able to mingle and have concessions there, it will be used strictly as additional room for people to enter and leave the ballpark.
The announcement of fans being able to return to Wrigley has stoked hope that even more fans will be allowed into the ballpark by the end of the season. As COVID-19 numbers continue to fall with the rollout of the vaccine and vaccinations of the general population expected to begin in May, that isn’t an unrealistic expectation.
‘‘A lot of that will just simply depend on how far the pandemic continues to recede,’’ Citronberg said. ‘‘One of the things that we’re worried about is the spread of these variants and [whether] that is going to cause another surge in the cases. We just don’t know. . . .
‘‘We are hopeful. I’m hopeful. And if you look at the mathematical models, by the second half of the season, we should be able to increase capacity based on the science. Of course, it depends on what the city and state allow. But if the science says [we can], yeah, we should be able to.’’