Cubs and White Sox fans will be allowed to return to the stands this spring, but what about Bulls and Blackhawks fans?
According to the city and teams, the United Center won't be opening its doors for fans, but discussions are still underway.
"We are keeping close tabs on where we are with public health data regarding the Bulls and the Blackhawks and other indoor venues, more complicated for the obvious reasons," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday. "But we are still working with them and if we believe that we can have fans in the stands at the United Center for either the Bulls or the Blackhawks before the end of the season, we'll certainly look for those opportunities to make that happen but we're not quite there yet."
A Bulls spokesperson said the team is excited by the news about baseball fans returning to stands and said they are having "productive" conversations with the city.
"We are excited to hear that Chicago baseball fans will be able to see their teams in person when the season starts next month. We continue to work with our city and state leaders to evaluate conditions and determine a timeline for welcoming fans back to the United Center for Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks games," the team said. "Those conversations have been productive and are continuing."
Cubs and White Sox fans will be allowed beginning Opening Day "under limited capacity and guidelines," including a mask requirement, officials said.
Guaranteed Rate Field, which normally seats just over 40,000 guests, will be limited to 20%, or 8,122 fans with at least six feet between parties.
Wrigley Field will also be limited to 20% capacity, leaving 8,274 fans allowed, compared to the normal capacity of 41,374.
“As a diehard sports fan myself, I’m personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We're able to do that thanks to the commitment of our city’s two great baseball franchises who continue to work in close partnership with Chicago’s public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery.”
The Cubs are set to kick off their home opener at Wrigley Field on April 1, while the White Sox are scheduled to return home on April 8 after starting their season on the road.
“We are proud of the important and historic role baseball plays in our country, offering respite during some of the most difficult times or in providing fans with a sense of comfort when circumstances seemed uncertain,” Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox, said in a statement. “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. It’s why we applaud Mayor Lightfoot, the leadership role she and Governor Pritzker have played for our city and state, and the decision today — guided by an unwavering commitment to public health and safety — to allow fans to return to Guaranteed Rate Field for Opening Day.”
“We appreciate Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership and share the City of Chicago’s commitment to safely welcoming fans back to baseball,” Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts said in statement. “The return of fans is incredibly meaningful to our players, our city and the game we all love. Nothing can replace the energy and enthusiasm our beloved fans bring to the Friendly Confines each and every game. We’re ready and excited for our much-anticipated Wrigley Field reunion.”
The city said both ballparks have made several safety "enhancements" in preparation for fans' return. Those changes include:
- Ballpark entry and amenity zones limited contact entry
- Cashless concessions and retail
- Additional restrooms per guest
- Reduced queueing times
- Reconfigured indoor spaces
“With our COVID-19 numbers declining and our vaccination efforts successful and ongoing, this is truly a milestone for the city’s reopening,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “As our favorite places in the city reopen, it is important we remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health guidance so we can enjoy everything Chicago has to offer.”
The move comes as fans begin to return to stands in places long shut down, like Barclays Center in New York. The Milwaukee Brewers also announced last week that fans would be allowed into American Family Field for the start of the 2021 baseball season at 25% capacity.
Currently, the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks are playing home games at the United Center, with no fans allowed in the building.
The Cubs and White Sox played their 2020 seasons without fans in the stands, and the Chicago Bears did the same at Soldier Field, with no fans in attendance at any of their eight home games.
Chicago's sports stadiums are also being utilized for mass vaccinations in the city, with the United Center opening its parking lots this week for appointments through a federal program.
According to Advocate Aurora Health, a mass vaccination site is also being explored at Wrigley Field, aiming to help even more Chicago-area residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
For a look at who is eligible to be vaccinated at the United Center under Phase 1B Plus, click here.