CHICAGO — Wrigley Field is getting ready for Opening Day and Cubs fans are getting ready for the first time in a year and a half.
Only WGN News was invited into Wrigley Field as workers were still hanging signs, wheeling in food and grooming the infield, all in preparation for the Cubs to take on the Pirates Thursday afternoon.
This will be the first major Chicago event the public has been invited to attend since the pandemic sent everyone home in 2020.
The rules inside the park may evolve with time, but for now, fans are asked to fall in line from the minute you arrive at the ballpark gates. It’s all in the interest of health and safety because Chicago fans are getting back in the game of baseball for the first time in a long time.
After all this time, David Cromwell is beaming with excitement underneath his face mask.
“We’re thrilled to have fans back at the Friendly Confines,” he said.
The senior VP of operations used the pandemic as a chance to cater to fans in a new way for the 2021 season.
“We took an opportunity to take a holistic view on the guest experiences,” he said.
Here’s how things are going to look on game day:
Before you leave home, take your own temperature.
Once you get to the gates, take a close look at your ticket. Your assigned entry gate, time and color designated zone all make this a new way of doing business at the ballpark. There are six zones in all.
“That’s to minimize gathering, minimize crowding and also provide a more seamless entry,” Cromwell said. “I don’t have to take my wallet, cellphone or keys out of my purse. There isn’t a bag search. You’re just carrying it on you as you walk through.”
It’s touchless screening. Unless, of course, the alarm sounds triggering a bag search.
“Not only have you eliminated touch points and reduced friction, we’ve also made a much more efficient process as you enter,” Cromwell said.
He means faster, shorter lines with less crowds moving simultaneously through magnetometers.
A word about seating zones, the Cubs want you to stay in it when inside the park, especially when you are fetching food, drinks or heading to the restroom.
Seats of no more than four are in pods. All other seats around you will be clearly marked off to provide space between the pods.
And everyone two years and older will be required to wear a mask inside the park.
“Unless they are actively seated, eating or drinking will they be allowed to remove their mask,” Cromwell said.
There’s also a lots of signage and lots of hand sanitizer.
At the concessions it’s again all about your mobile device. The MLB Ballpark App is your friend and the Cubs have adopted QR codes too to simplify purchases. You can find it on the back of the seat in front you in the stands.
“Guests can scan (the code) and that will direct them to the concessions that are within their seating zone,” Cromwell said.
Fans can have their food delivered to their seats or go to the concession stands in their zone to pick it up themselves.
There’s no Hot Doug’s this game nor specialty chef series either. Not right away this season.
“We still have a Chicago dog stand, our classics and our grill,” Cromwell said. “Ample variety within the zone that you are ticketed for.”
There will also be a lot of staff around to help on Opening Day.
You can still buy merchandise inside as well.
Things will feel different, but the game, win or lose, will make this an event for the history books.
Audio and video board prompts will be frequent on gameday with reminders about masks and other safety measures.
You’ll note a lot of plexiglass around the park: at the food concessions, and inside the bathrooms between sinks inside the ladies’ room.
Also everything will be cashless at Wrigley Field.
More information on Wrigley Field COVID-19 Guidelines and Gameday Information at www.cubs.com/COVID-safety