CHICAGO (CBS) — Ready for another soccer fan invasion downtown? Grant Park is expected to be filled with them Thursday morning to watch the big World Cup match between USA and Germany.
On Sunday, 20,000 people showed up for World Cup watch party at Grant Park for the USA-Portugal game. Preparations are already underway for Thursday’s game.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the area around Butler Field is now gated. Organizers say Thursday’s crowd could be even bigger than Sunday’s and they’ll be ready for them.
Canopies are going up and so are the two huge screens that will show the USA’s soccer team in their biggest match to date.
“We’ve seen a great turnout for the last two events. We’re expecting a good crowd tomorrow as well,” said Mike Gressle, the marketing director for the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Gressle says it’s clear the sport’s popularity here is growing, with proof being the 20,000 fans who showed up Sunday and the federation doesn’t want to disappoint.
“This is a pretty big production. We have two screens here, which we haven’t had for the last two events. It is definitely the biggest space that we have so there is more fencing and porta johns,” said Gressle.
One screen will be in front of the Petrillo Band Shell stage and the other will be toward the back of the stage area facing fans in the grass.
Butler Field is no stranger to festivals and celebrations and can hold tens of thousands of people. Remember, it’s where the packed Bulls championship celebrations were held – starting with the first in 1991. Gates will open at 10 a.m., an hour before the game.
“It’s gonna be really exciting. All my friends are coming down and we are going to pain our faces and stuff it is going to be great,” said soccer fan Riyah Basha.
But not everyone will be rooting for Team USA. Jeff Heil, the owner of Irving Park’s Mirabell Restaurant, has been preparing for this game for almost a year, from the rooftop soccer ball down. He is expecting about 100 German fans Thursday.
Organizers say gates might open early if the crowd is here early. There will be two entrances: one at Columbus and Jackson with the other at Columbus and Monroe.
All bags will be searched. Food and drinks will be sold inside, but no alcohol will be allowed.