Cubs Opening Day 2021: Wrigley Field to host 10K fans, likely Chicago's largest gathering in over a year

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's the moment baseball and Cubs fans have been waiting for: Wrigley Field will see fans back in the stands on Opening Day Thursday.

The ballpark is spiffed up and ready for fans to come back, but it will be a much different Opening Day for everyone.

SEE ALSO | Cubs Opening Day 2021: Bar capacity to be enforced in Wrigleyville as COVID cases rise on North Side

With capacity in the park limited to 25 percent, only about 10,000 fans will be allowed in. They will be using contactless tickets on their phones.

Masks are required, seating areas will be blocked off for social distancing, and partitions will now separate the once bare-boned bleacher seats.

WATCH | Wrigley ready to welcome back fans on Opening Day
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The ballpark is spiffed up and ready for fans to come back, but it will be a much different opening day for everyone.

Chuck Wade will be one of the fans inside the park. He spent Wednesday afternoon making sure he has updated Cubs gear for the occasion.

"The most important thing is baseball is back, and I'm excited to see some baseball," he said.

"It's been a ghost town around here," said Rhiannon Foard, Wrigleyville Sports. "Looking forward to seeing some friendly faces."

SEE ALSO | Chicago's North Side sees dangerous spike in COVID cases

The city is also gearing up for the opener, likely the largest single gathering of people in one spot in more than a year.

"We are anticipating a lively atmosphere but well-behaved. We hope fans remember they are in a thriving community," said Rich Guidice, director, Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

Now fully vaccinated, Chicago native Gretchen Leiterman drove from Louisville, Kentucky to sit in one of the coveted 10,000 COVID-restricted seats.

I'm just excited to walk in the stadium," she said. "Oh it's exciting. It's going to be cold! It's going be really cold. There's nothing colder than Wrigley in April!"

Enduring a bitterly cold opening day at this ballpark is a Chicago rite of passage, but fans will now be under new pandemic restrictions.

"Now I feel confident. I believe everything is being done and it's time to introduce the steps," Cubs fan Rita Hessyon said.

The CTA is also getting ready, adding train cars but limiting capacity to 30 people per car, and no more than 20 people on standard buses.

"We strongly urge people to allow extra time and plan ahead," CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski said.

SEE ALSO | Chicago mass COVID vaccination sites near Wrigley Field, Chicago State University opening soon

Opening day for the Cubs means reopening day for Yak-Zies across from the ballpark. They've been closed since the start of the pandemic, more than a year ago, and they've got a lot of work to do before they can greet fans again.

"It's 54 weeks of dust we have to clean up and inventory we need to get rid of from last year when we were getting ready for St. Patrick's Day and Opening Day," owner Joe Spagnoli said.

Plans are being made to keep bars around Wrigley Field in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions for Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

Officials will be checking on capacity and working to keep large crowds of people from gathering and drinking during the game, and into the weekend.
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