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What to Expect When Returning to Guaranteed Rate Field

Being back on Opening Day felt as good as ever, but things were definitely different this time around

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox hosted their home opener on Thursday, with fans in the stands for the first time since the 2019 season.
Ron Vesely/Getty Images

When it came to the action on the field during the home opener for the Chicago White Sox, things went just how we planned it: Fans saw a shutout from Lance Lynn, Yoán Moncada’s second straight home opener home run, and Yermín Mercedes completely obliterating a ball 485 feet.

But off the field, things were more different than they have ever been before, and fans got a taste of what the new reality will be like for a while.

Here are some things that you need to know when returning to the ballpark.

This video that the White Sox put together showed a little bit of what it was like inside the park that day, and it was quite a tearjerker to see the players interact with fans again.

Walking through the gates for the first time since August 2019, I didn’t know what to expect. So, speaking of gates, there will be a color on your ticket that coordinates with which gates and entrances you are allowed into. The point of this is to limit fans from walking around the ballpark unnecessarily, and to get us into our sections securely and safely.

Outside, there are certain colors on signs that direct you to each gate. For example, my ticket said that I was included in the orange zone, so I followed the signs that pointed to which entrance included the orange zone. Tickets also list your designated parking lot.

No tailgating is allowed before the game in the parking lots. No bags are allowed into the park, with the exceptions of a small clutch purse, a medical bag, or a diaper bag if an infant is present. You can bring certain food and closed drinks into the park.

All tickets are completely mobile. When it comes to food or merchandise purchases inside the park, debit and credit cards are allowed, as well as mobile pay methods, to avoid any direct contact (all transactions are cashless). Also, once you enter the park, you are required to wear your mask at all times, unless you are actively eating or drinking.

To get to your area and surrounding sections, you have to produce your tickets, which is normal. One thing I found interesting was that you are limited to a designated zone around your section. In my case, I was in Section 557 in the top left corner of the ballpark. If I wanted to walk across the park into the middle sections of the upper deck, I couldn’t. This means that the food choices and stores that you have in your designated area and zones are the only places that you can go. Luckily, each area seems to offer a large selection of food items and merchadise, so you won’t miss out on much.

Once you get to your seat, you will notice that a lot of the surrounding seats are zip-tied shut, so that nobody can come and sit in them randomly. Tickets are sold in pods and bought in groups; all pods are socially distanced six feet apart, so you won’t be close to people you didn’t purchase your tickets with.

Although it seems like a lot to adjust to, being back in the ballpark is worth it all. The only complaint that I have is that “Thunderstruck” wasn’t played at all. Sorry to disappoint, folks. Can we get a petition going to tell the White Sox that they need to play it again before the game?

On a positive note, from the second I stepped in the stadium, it was just as electric as it is at full capacity. I wasn’t even bothered that I had to stay in my seats during a two-hour rain delay, because I was just so happy that I got the opportunity to be there. Plus, the view of the field wasn’t too bad itself.

Fans were happily chowing down some authentic ballpark food, and it never felt so good to hear Gene Honda’s voice echo through the stadium as he announced the starting lineup. “Sweet Home Chicago” played at the end of the game, the fireworks were soaring through the sky, the White Sox grabbed the win, and it felt like home.

After being gone for over a year, you tend to notice all of the little details that make you realize why you love baseball so much. With that being said, it sure feels good to be back.