Chicago to allow 20% fan capacity at MLB fields in time for Opening Day

CHICAGO -- Chicago is lifting some coronavirus restrictions in time for MLB's Opening Day, allowing fans to attend games at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field for the first time in more than a year.

The rules, announced Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration, take effect April 1, Opening Day for the Cubs. The home opener for the White Sox is April 8.

"As a die-hard sports fan myself," Lightfoot said, "I'm personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season."

Capacity will initially be limited to 20% for each venue with at least 6 feet between parties. At Wrigley Field, the oldest ballpark in the National League, attendance will be limited to 8,274 fans per game. The Cubs reported no positive COVID-19 tests among their players in the 2020 season.

"Nothing can replace the energy and enthusiasm our beloved fans bring to the Friendly Confines each and every game," said Cubs executive chairman Tom Ricketts. "We're ready and excited for our much-anticipated Wrigley Field reunion."

At Guaranteed Rate Field, capacity will be capped at 8,122 fans.

"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," said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox.

Lightfoot credited both teams for working closely with the city's public health officials to develop a plan to safely host fans that will also "offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery." The city determined it was appropriate to reopen to limited numbers of fans, citing "low to moderate risk levels" for test positivity, cases and ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The Cubs and White Sox will include new measures designed to comply with local mandates and decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including limiting entry to the ballparks, cashless concessions and merchandise sales, and reduced lines once inside. Everyone will be required to wear a mask.

With Chicago's announcement and California's decision Friday to allow baseball stadiums, among other outdoor venues, to admit fans, at least 25 of MLB's 30 teams have announced plans that will allow fans in the stands in time for Opening Day. According to The Wall Street Journal, about 40% of annual revenue for baseball teams is derived from the in-stadium experience, including ticket sales and concessions.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I thank Mayor Lightfoot for her shared commitment to a responsible resumption of fan attendance in Chicago, under protocols designed to promote safety," commissioner Rob Manfred said. "MLB will continue to urge fans to follow best practices for health and safety in the fight against COVID-19."