(670 The Score) It has been about 11 months since Cubs fans could watch their team in person from the stands, but they’ll get that chance again soon.
The city of Mesa, Maricopa County and the state of Arizona have given the Cubs the green light to have fans up to 25% capacity at Sloan Park for spring training games. The Cubs are hoping to put 3,500 or more fans in Sloan Park, whose 15,000-person capacity is the biggest of any team in spring training in Arizona or Florida.
COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be in place, with masks being mandatory and seating scattered in pods of two to six people sitting together. Fans will only be allowed to unmask if they’re eating or drinking in their specific seat location.
"We will have different locations and protocols regarding the selling of concessions this season," Cubs general manager of spring training operations Justin Piper said. "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.”
Season tickets for the spring training slate won’t be sold. Instead, season-ticket holders from spring training last year will have the first priority to purchase tickets for games at Sloan Park this spring. The general public will then have the opportunity to purchase tickets after that.
Each host city in the Phoenix area will have its own guidelines for ticket sales, officials said, but the hope is there’s consistency as all 15 Cactus League teams and their ballparks follow CDC and MLB guidelines.
"The Cubs people made this easier by being so proactive early in this process," Mesa city manager Chris Brady said about the Cubs getting the state, county and city involved. "Their people both in Chicago and here in Mesa realized if they were organized with early requests that it would move along the process as quickly as the science permitted our officials to act.”
The Cubs open Cactus League play by hosting the Dodgers on Feb. 27, and Brady is confident it will be a safe environment. The Phoenix area has seen a drop in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
"We have seen a big turnaround,” Brady said. “We have also seen our hotel and resort industry go to a no-touch system where travelers are feeling safe as the science is being respected and adhered to by our hotel and retail community.”
Sloan Park will use similar protocols.
"You will see the attention to detail, including a system of a no-touch ticket and purchasing exchanges,” Brady said. “That is how detailed the Cubs have been in working this through. The process of properly wearing mask and appropriate distancing will be enforced.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.