Cubs Expect to Host Fans at Wrigley Field, Expect Rooftops ‘Will Be Open’ for First Game

Although COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the United States, the Cubs are planning to operate at or around 20% capacity for Wrigley Field and the rooftops in accordance with Illinois’ latest guidelines. Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations, told 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein he expects a maximum of 8,000 fans per game at some point this season inside Wrigley Field. Masks and social distancing will of course be required.

Kenney emphasizes that, while operating at maximum allowed capacity is a goal, the Cubs will need the approval from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot in order to proceed. Talks with the mayor’s office are ongoing and it’s expected the lines of communication will remain open given the fluidity of the situation.

Even if the Cubs aren’t allowed to welcome fans inside Wrigley Field, Kenney said the rooftops will be open for the first game and probably all season long unless something changes.

Regardless of whether and how many fans the Cubs can host, there’s going to be a much greater demand to be able to watch them on television. That means having them on Comcast’s Xfinity service, the largest cable provider in the greater Chicago area. Kenney said the pace of their negotiations “has picked up dramatically” and that he expects a deal soon, perhaps during the new spring training.

One other topic of note is the location of Cubs’ taxi squad, which may be in South Bend. The proximity to Chicago is ideal, especially when the schedule will be limited to other teams in the Central divisions, so having their extra players near at hand is much easier than putting them in Mesa.

Finally, Kenney acknowledged the likelihood that there would be “some sort of virtual effect,” or fake crowd noise, during telecasts. However, he expressed hope that the fans in attendance would be able to provide ample noise on their own.

As inevitable as this announcement was following the release of the Phase 4 guidelines of Restore Illinois, I’m having a difficult time reconciling COVID-19 cases increasing country-wide with Wrigley Field housing 8,000 fans. Granted, Illinois has been a shining example to the rest of the country, as the state is one of a select few to have its case count trending downward.

But if the federal response to the global pandemic continues to be inadequate, as eminent epidemiologists and virologists have described, wishing for 8,000 fans in Wrigley will be just that: a wish.

Update: Take this for what it’s worth, but Mayor Lightfoot reportedly has not had discussions with either of Chicago’s MLB teams “to any level of specificity” on operating safely during the pandemic. She also noted that the 8,000 fans represented by 20% capacity would exceed city and state limits on crowd size.

That latter point may be a little off base, however, as the Phase 4 accommodations set to go into effect Friday don’t place a maximum number on the 20% capacity. This isn’t necessarily denying the Cubs’ plans, though it does indicate that perhaps they got out over their skis a little in terms of discussing it publicly.

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