CHICAGO (CBS) — At this time a year ago, Wrigley Field was deserted with the baseball season having been postponed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid a statewide stay-at-home order.
A year later, baseball was back at Wrigley Field as the Cubs took on the Pittsburgh Pirates on a chilly Opening Day 2021 – though with reduced crowds. It was the first mega-event Chicago has seen since the pandemic began.READ MORE: Local Businesses Hope For Similar Outcome Of Shoppers For Small Business Saturday
The city was ready, and it appears to have passed the test. But the exam that matters may still be a couple days away.
The friendly confines that have stood since 1914 at Clark and Addison streets are friendly to fans once again. And they are also very confined – with entry zones designated by color, and tickets relegated to “digital only.”
The event – the largest in Chicago since pandemic began – became a stress test for city services.
The Chicago Transit Authority seemed to pass its test. The spot check of Red Line ‘L’ trains to Wrigley we popped onto were compliant to social distancing and head count rules.
Meanwhile, police were there with a commanding presence – including mounted units on horseback. No major midday issues reported.
But residents said tighter parking restrictions since the last time the Cubs hosted fans 557 days ago did create new costs and concerns.
Meanwhile, our spot check of bars and restaurants showed none of the Wrigleyville staples blatantly exceeding capacity limits – most with reservation systems in place. The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection reported no citations as of 6 p.m.
“This feels a little odd, to be honest with you,” said Cubs fan Brock Iseminger.READ MORE: 'The WasteShed' Art Store, Selling Recycled Supplies For Less, Opens Second Location In Evanston
Some were completely empty on the outside.
“It’s a little muted, but it’s kind of what we expected,” said Jason Felsenthal, manager of HVAC Pub at 3530 N. Clark St.
Muted as in no volume – that is what out-of-towners spotted.
“There’s nobody around! Where was the traffic? We drove up in an hour and a half, from Indiana,” Iseminger said.
So, is this Chicago acing its first mega-event, or is something else? Game tickets limited to 8,000 put a ceiling on crowd size, and Mother Nature may have taken care of the rest.
“First of all, its 35-degrees,” Felsenthal said.
But the cold fact for COVID-spiking Wrigleyville is that the real stress test is this weekend. When the weather warms, the crowds swell and the Cubs home stand rolls on.
“It just feels weird,” Iseminger said. “That’s what we’ve said all morning.”
The trickiest part of this day was likely just starting late Thursday afternoon. Opening days that start in the 1 p.m. hour lead to an influx in happy-hour guests after traditional work hours end.
As of the late afternoon, the city said there had been no violations or citations issued to venues operating improperly.MORE NEWS: Bond Set For Westchester Man Charged With Attempted Armed Burglary In Oak Brook
The Cubs lost the game 5-3.