It’s Opening Day: Here’s how the Cubs and Sox are stepping up to the plate

One of the new food offerings at Guaranteed Rate Field will be the smoke house smash burger, with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, beer cheese sauce and an onion ring, at the ChiSox Bar & Grill.

Baseball is back, as White Sox fans head to Opening Day at Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side Thursday afternoon, while Cubs fans return to Wrigley Field on Monday for the home opener against the Colorado Rockies.

Fans will get to see plenty of balls, strikes, hits, runs and errors, but there’s much more to the ballpark experience than what happens on the diamond.

Here’s a look at some of the new food, amenities and other changes at the ballparks this year.

Not just peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Fans visiting Guaranteed Rate Field this season can sink their teeth into a crispy chicken sandwich with spicy Creole sauce or quarter-pound bratwurst and Italian sausage. There are also “impossible” – i.e. plant-based – burgers and hot dogs.

Over at the ChiSox Bar & Grill, fans can try the smoke house smash burger with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, beer cheese sauce and an onion ring.

The dessert menu features a Jack-and-Coke float with vanilla ice cream and the 16-ounce campfire milkshake, with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate pieces.

The Leinenkugel's Craft Lounge at Guaranteed Rate Field will feature more than 50 craft beers.

The Leinenkugel’s Craft Lodge will feature 50-plus craft beers from more than three dozen breweries, among them Downers Grove-based Alter Brewing, maker of Alterado Lager.

The Wrigley faithful will see some rookies step up to the plate as well.

Palate pleasers will include chimichurri tri-tip steak sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, braised chicken tinga nachos, Ancho-spiced shredded barbacoa nachos and chori-soy and roasted corn nachos.

The self-service “Sheffield Market” will open near section 133, allowing fans to grab snacks and beverages on the go.

Turano buns and Hampton Farms shelled peanuts also will be available, along with favorite vendors such as Garrett Popcorn, Home Run Inn Pizza, Hot Doug’s and Vienna Beef.

Wrigley Field fans can enjoy the chimichurri tri-tip sandwich, with Ancho-rubbed tri-tip steak, tangy chimichurri sauce, creamy horseradish sauce, charred red bell pepper rings and fresh arugula served on ciabatta bread.

Bring your own

Those attending the Sox opener and packing their own snacks should remember that food items must be in clear one-gallon zip-lock bags. Sealed water bottles are permitted, with a one-liter limit per person.

Bag restrictions are still in place at Wrigley, with only bags smaller than 16 by 16 by 8 inches permitted inside the ballpark. Exceptions will be made for medical bags and diaper bags that accompany guests with young children.

Family friendly confines

Sox fans can check out a stroller at Guest Relations for free. Guaranteed Rate Field also has a Mother’s Nursing Room, a Sensory Room and Sensory Pod with quiet spaces for parents and children, and 75 changing tables throughout the ballpark, including in some of the men’s facilities.

A new sensory room will be available to fans at Wrigley Field. Sensory bags also are available for fans to check out at no cost from the Fan Services Booth on the main concourse and in the Budweiser Bleachers.

Electrifying action

New electric vehicle charging stations will be added to the Toyota Camry Lot (1126 W. Grace St.) at Wrigley for fans to use on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the 2024 season, starting April 1. Wrigley is the first venue in the U.S. to use these electric vehicle charging stations from global innovator LG Electronics.

Overhead improvements

Cubs fans in the upper deck will notice something new above their heads – the roof. Workers spent four months this offseason replacing old wood beams with steel, and installing a new weatherproof membrane.

A view of the new upper deck roof at Wrigley Field, which was installed during the offseason.

The work comes five years after Wrigley’s lower roof was replaced in 2019.

Get ready to play ball, fans!

Steve Zalusky - Daily Herald Media Group

Steve Zalusky is a reporter for the Daily Herald