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Back to the ballpark: The Cubs got the Wrigley Field experience right

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After 18 months, returning to Wrigley Field was safe and fun. Well, except for the game result.

Al Yellon

If the headline to this post looks familiar, it’s because I wrote a similar one for my article about the first game back at Sloan Park in Mesa last month.

The Cubs did the same at Wrigley Field, helping the 10,343 fans in attendance (25 percent of Wrigley’s capacity) feel safe and welcome after 18 months away from watching live baseball on the North Side of Chicago.

Entering the ballpark was the same procedure as entering Sloan Park. I wrote about the new security devices being used there last month, and the same devices are being used at Wrigley. The Cubs, for now, are the only team using these devices from Evolv Technology, but the folks at that company say they’re talking to other MLB teams. These allow many more people to be screened in a shorter period of time. I waited outside the ballpark for a short time before going in as I was meeting friends I hadn’t seen in person for 18 months, but at no time was there a line to get in.

Al Yellon
Al Yellon

This photo, showing a health screening checkpoint, is for employees and media:

Al Yellon

These signs reminding people to remain masked inside Wrigley Field were in many locations. In general, most people were good about doing this, and there were plenty of gameday staff to remind those who weren’t.

Al Yellon
Al Yellon
Al Yellon
Al Yellon

This one, I found interesting. Water fountains at Sloan Park were available for use.

Al Yellon
Al Yellon

One difference you will find if you go to a game is that the ballpark is now “zoned” by color. It matches the color of the ticket you have in your Ballpark app. There are staff on the concourse making sure you stay in your “zone.” This is being done to reduce crowding on the concourse, in particular around concession stands and in restrooms. You can see the “GOLD ZONE” sign on the left field gate walls in one of the photos above.

These reminders flashed often on the video boards during the game:

Al Yellon

There’s also signage inside and outside the ballpark reminding everyone of the COVID-19 protocols, which you can read in their entirety here. This was a reminder outside the ballpark about COVID-19:

Al Yellon

The bleachers for Opening Day were reserved for vaccinated health care workers from Advocate Health in Aurora. This was a great gesture by the Cubs to reward these workers who have tirelessly and selflessly worked to keep their communities safe and healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocate handed out a kit with hand sanitizer and KN95 masks to the first 8,000 fans through the gates at Wrigley. Here are some of the Advocate workers in the bleachers. I salute them for their work:

Courtesy Advocate Health
Courtesy Advocate Health
Courtesy Advocate Health

The shirts you see being worn here are available for sale to the public at Obvious Shirts, Ivy Shop and at the Cubs Team Store at Gallagher Way. All proceeds from sales of the three shirts will go to Advocate Aurora Health COVID-19 Relief Funds.

I look forward to being back in the bleachers for Saturday’s game — when the weather will be a lot more conducive to baseball, with temperatures in the 60s.

I didn’t have anything to eat or drink at Thursday’s game — too cold! — but I did see vendors roaming the stands. These vendors aren’t selling anything directly, instead they are delivering orders made through the Ballpark app.

If you’re someone who likes keeping score, as I do, the team is selling scorecards — but they are generic cards without team rosters on them. My understanding is that these will be sold throughout the 2021 season.

Overall, just as they did at Sloan Park, the Cubs did an excellent job keeping people safe at Wrigley Field while welcoming them back for an afternoon of baseball. Gameday staff was efficient and helpful and as I wrote in Thursday’s game recap, seemed genuinely happy to be there and have fans at Wrigley again. Many gameday staff have become personal friends of mine and I hadn’t seen them in person in 18 months. It was good to renew those friendships.

In a bit of non-COVID-19 news, it was a pleasant surprise to hear the voice of Paul Friedman as the Wrigley Field public-address announcer. Friedman was the Cubs PA man from 1995-2010 and will be announcing home games through the month of April. Personally, if he’s able to do it and the Cubs are willing, I’d love to hear Paul’s voice back at the PA mic permanently.

Over the course of the 2021 season, hopefully the Cubs (and other MLB teams) will be able to increase fan capacity, perhaps by mid- or late summer back to full houses. Until then, if you are able to get to a game at Wrigley Field, I would not hesitate. The Cubs are keeping Wrigley safe for everyone.