Pritzker Questions Whether Fans Will Be Seen At Soldier Field This Year

Cisco Cotto
May 08, 2020 - 9:33 am

    CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago Bears released Thursday night their 2020 game schedule and tickets went on sale soon after, but will fans be able to attend any of the games at Soldier Field? Governor Pritzker cast doubt on fans gathering for sporting events this year.

    Governor Pritzker said he’s spoken with many leagues and sports teams about how they could start or continue their seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic - some considering playing without fans in the stands; but what about football, which for the Bears regular seasons games do not start until mid-September? Pritzker said it will depend on nationwide conditions.

    "Well again, we want to make sure everyone is safe, so all across the country if the nation is not in a state where we can have tens of thousands of people together in a stadium, then I don't think you are going to see football opening up to have fans in the stands; however, you may know that many of the leagues and teams - and I have spoken with many of them  - are considering opening their seasons or continuing their seasons without fans in the stands so that people can enjoy sports online or on TV," Pritzker said Thursday at a news conference.

    Pritzker said it's up to a team to submit plans for how they would manage restrictions while playing, though league officials and team owners have noted even that even playing without fans could be difficult, as contact sports could lead to transmission of COVID-19 among athletes.

    "We have some terrific sports fans all across the state of Illinois that want to see this up and running and so there's a desire to have it work," Pritzker said. "I think they've got to come up with a set of plans... I think they're incentivized, by the way, the leagues are, to do the right thing. Partly they're incentivized because they have players that are worth millions of dollars to them that are going to be on the field. So you know, I think they want to protect their, for lack of better term, assets and their people."

    No teams have submitted such plans so far, but Pritzker said he's "looking forward to seeing them" and wants to get professional sports going. But he believes it will be some time fans will be able to watch games in person.

    “I want to get sports up and going. I think people need this as an outlet. No, it won’t be in person, at least not in the next month or two,” Pritzker said. “But I think it’s very important for everybody’s psyche. We have some terrific sports fans all across the state of Illinois who want to see this up and running.”

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot sounded off on the possibility that baseball could make a comeback this summer, in some form or other, but, she balks at saying she's confident.

    She admitted that she has talked to the heads of all the major sports teams in Chicago about if, or when, or how games could be played. But, she said, games should only be played if they could be done safely for the players and stadium employees. She told reporters she cannot envision a way for her beloved White Sox to play before a crowd, and realistically with social distancing, she is not even sure how they can play at all.

    "Giving people an opportunity to see baseball in Chicago, I think is a good thing, but we got to do it in a way that is safe - not only for the fans, but think about all the employees that are going to be needed, even if we don't have vendors and concessions," Lightfoot said. 

    "Empty is a possibility, with public health guidance and precautions to keep people safe, including the players. Baseball is not a contact sport like football, but when you are running the bases and you're running hard, there's contact that's going to happen."

    The Governor released a five-step reopening plan for Illinois earlier this week, which notes there cannot be gatherings of more than 50 people until there’s a vaccine, an effective treatment, or a virtual absence of new cases.

    But if an effective treatment is developed, which could happen sooner than a vaccine, Pritzker said he’s willing to change his plan for the state’s reopening.

    “If we have a very effective treatment and, or, we have a vaccine available, then I can’t wait to welcome people back to large gatherings, to conventions, and so on,” Pritzker said. “I’m the first person that wants to bring business to the state of Illinois and put people back to work, so I am looking at that. In terms of when we will get to stage 5 - I don't know, and we will be evaluating that as we go."