Grant Park anticipates large crowds for World Cup viewing party

More than 20,000 World Cup fans are expected at Grant Park Thursday morning when team U.S.A. takes on Germany.
More than 20,000 World Cup fans are expected at Grant Park Thursday morning when team U.S.A. takes on Germany. The viewing party is the biggest in Chicago, and it may make getting around a challenge.

Not one, but two large screens are now set up in Grant Park's Butler Field, ready for Thursday's U.S. versus Germany soccer match. The main one is over the Petrillo Bandshell. Workers spent several hours Wednesday getting the field ready for the morning viewing party, which is expected to be the biggest one to date.

"We knew it would build over the course of time and once people saw how much fun it was more and more people would come out. So to have the biggest venue we've had for these viewing parties for the third game is outstanding," said Mike Gessle, U.S. Soccer.

Interest in the World Cup has grown with each game. Ten thousand people came out for game one. By game two, it was 20,000. Already on Wednesday, some eager soccer fans were kicking around a ball as preps for game three were taking place.

"I'm pretty excited. It's going to be a cool event. Everyone gets to come out and enjoy the game, all together, all the fans. It's pretty exciting," said Marlin Hawkins, soccer fan.

"My son is a big soccer fan and I have some colleagues in from Germany who are big soccer fans, so we're all going to gather around tomorrow and have a good time," said Craig Bradley, soccer fan.

Because many of those attending Thursday's fan fest are expected to come in from the suburbs, Metra is advising its regular commuters to be ready for packed trains, especially during the late morning rush. Metra is also banning alcohol for the day.

"Anticipate greater crowds. It may be standing room only on some trains. We'll do our best to provide service as quickly and efficiently as possible. But we may have some delays because when you have more people boarding it takes a longer time at each station," Metra spokeswoman Meg Riele said.

The gates to Butler Field will open to fans at 10 a.m. Fans should expect to have their backpacks searched.
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