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Wrigley Field welcomes back fans for first time in 2 years

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    CHICAGO (WLS) — Baseball returns to Wrigley Field Thursday as the Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates and unlike last year, fans are back in the stadium to cheer on the home team.

The Cubs are ready to begin a new year, hoping players like Kris Bryant can return to his MVP form. First pitch is at 1:20 p.m.

The White Sox will start their season in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels, with the game starting at 9:05 p.m.

The ballpark is spiffed up and ready for fans to come back, but it will be a much different Opening Day for everyone.

With capacity in the park limited to 25 percent, only about 10,000 fans will be allowed in. They will be using contactless tickets on their phones.

Masks are required, seating areas will be blocked off for social distancing, and partitions will now separate the once bare-boned bleacher seats.

It’s been a year of shutdowns, lockdowns, tests, shots, and positivity rates, but Thursday fans can start talking about strikeouts, home runs and stolen bases.

“It’s been two years, pandemic you know the fans are real excited to come out,” said Cubs fan Shawn Greene. “I’m sure this place will be crowded but it’s just good to be back.”

And while it’s not a full house at Wrigley, any fans in the stands is a different kind of shot in the arm for not only the Cubs and the business owners around the ballpark, it’s a small taste of normalcy.

Roberto Ramos AKA Captain Cubbo is dressed and ready to put his superpowers to work.

“My ability is trying to get as many homers and hits and get as many Ws as we can possibly get and of course you know I’m here for the kids,” Ramos said.

Carol Reyes is a super fan who will be among the Advocate healthcare frontline workers filling the bleachers.

The Cubs are filling the bleachers Thursday with Advocate healthcare frontline workers

“The Cubs have just been awesome…it’s just been incredible,” Reyes said.

Fans will also use QR codes in front of their seats to order food for a contactless experience.

“So we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that fans have a safe, but enjoyable experience at Wrigley Field,’ said Julian Green, Cubs senior vice president of communication.

Wrigleyville is ready for an influx of die-hards. However, bars and restaurants will still have limited capacity.

Opening Day is a sign of Spring that comes with new hope both on the field and off of returning to some kind of normal.

“I think you’ll hear people singing through their masks and obviously the seventh inning stretch in the national anthem so all the, all the usual rituals of Wrigley Field will still be here, just a little bit smaller,’ said Crane Kenney, Cubs president of business operations.

It took the Cubs about 10 months to come up with this plan to bring fans back safely and workers too.

The CTA is also getting ready, adding train cars but limiting capacity to 30 people per car, and no more than 20 people on standard buses.

“We strongly urge people to allow extra time and plan ahead,” CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski said.

Plans are being made to keep bars around Wrigley Field in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions for Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

Officials will be checking on capacity and working to keep large crowds of people from gathering and drinking during the game, and into the weekend.

Last year, the Cubs employed some local artists to design murals in and around Wrigley Field, but when the pandemic hit, those artists walked away from their work for months.

Kate Lynn Lewis returned to complete her murals that celebrate Women’s History Month and the history of women in baseball.

She did her designs and some T-shirts to help raise money for the non-profit Girls In The Game, so she and the Cubs wanted to make sure that the designs highlight the beauty of women in and around the beautiful game.

“The Cubs have done a really good job of incorporating into each of these a non-profit leg of it as well,” Lewis said. “I definitely applaud the team for making space for art in Wrigley Field.”

Her designs and T-shirts have sold out and her mural is on display in the Cubs team store.

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