Cubs get approval for fans at Sloan Park for spring training

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Last spring, everything looked and felt pretty normal early on in the Cactus League. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stopped the sport – and much of the world – in its tracks.

The battle against the coronavirus continues one year later and likely will for months – and perhaps even years – to come. But for Chicago Cubs fans looking for some sort of escape or distraction this time around, they’ll have a chance to see the team in Arizona this spring.

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Local and state authorities granted the organization approval to have up to 25 percent capacity at Sloan Park in Mesa once spring training games kick off on Feb. 27. This means the Cubs will be able to have approximately 3,500 fans in the seats – out of the 15,000 capacity the venue traditionally holds each spring.

Cubs will have COVID guidelines in-place

Now, this isn’t going to be the sort of free-for-all you saw in the streets of Tampa Bay after Tom Brady and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl on Sunday. Masks are mandatory unless you’re eating or drinking in your assigned seat – and as far as the seating goes, fans will be placed in 2-6 person pods, based on who their ticket order.

"“We will have different locations and protocols regarding the selling of concessions this season,” Cubs general manager of spring training operations Justin Piper told 670 AM WSCR. “Staying within guidelines for CDC protocol protection and enjoyment of the game will be our goal for our fans this spring. We submitted a plan to the governor, and it was approved with these important guidelines in place.”"

The bigger question – getting fans back into Wrigley Field this season – still looms large. We know that ownership cited ‘biblical’ losses due to gameday losses last year, even in a 60-game season. Without fans, the organization’s healthiest revenue streams – ticket sales, souvenirs and concessions – all ran dry, leaving a chasm in the budget.

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We’ve seen the impact of those losses this winter, with the Cubs barely dipping their toes into the Hot Stove waters. As vaccination efforts in Chicago and across the country continue to ramp up heading into the spring and summer, we can only hope it makes it possible to at least get some fans back at the Friendly Confines in 2021.