Chicago’s Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have been given the green light to welcome full-capacity crowds from next week.
The news comes after Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, announced that the city is scheduled to move into Phase 5 of its roadmap, meaning it will fully reopen in line with the rest of Illinois on June 11, just in time for next Friday’s games. It had been suggested that full crowds would not be allowed in Chicago before July.
The Cubs is set to have a full crowd at 41,500-capacity Wrigley Field for its first tie against St Louis Cardinals, while White Sox hopes to welcome back fans at a 100-per-cent capacity for its final tie at 40,500-capacity Guaranteed Rate Field against Toronto Blue Jays.
Outdoor seated venues have been operating at 60-per-cent capacity since May, having opened the season in March at just 20 per cent.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo explained the impact the return of crowds had made at the last home match: “It’s loud. It brings everything back to being a Cub, this is Wrigley Field.
“It’s the fans and to hear them — to hear the roar at Wrigley — it’s just different. Sixty per cent, whatever it is, it seems like it’s 100 per cent.”
Both the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks have completed their seasons so do not have games scheduled for months.
Chicago’s declining rates of cases and hospitalisations means officials are optimistic of remaining on schedule to reopen.
A return to full capacity is also expected to have a positive economic impact on the areas surrounding the stadiums.
Cubs senior vice president of communications Julian Green said: “The resulting economic impact will be tremendous for the city and neighbourhood as we put people back to work and host upwards of 40,000 fans who will eat, shop and drink in Wrigleyville.”