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Volume 24 No. 112

Facilities

A young girl who was "seated directly behind the third-base dugout" at Yankee Stadium was hit in the face yesterday by a foul ball, adding to the debate about what MLB "should do to better protect its fans," according to Wallace Matthews of the N.Y. TIMES. Teams in '15 "agreed to extend the traditional protective netting behind home plate to at least the inner edge of both dugouts." A third of the teams have "extended the netting further, to at least the far end of the dugout," but the Yankees are not one of them. If Yankee Stadium had netting in place that "did stretch to the far end of the third-base dugout," the line drive hit by Yankees 3B Todd Frazier likely "would not have reached the stands." The incident will "almost certainly increase pressure on the Yankees to act quickly to make their netting longer." N.Y. Council member Rafael Espinal, who introduced legislation in May to require all N.Y. ballparks to have protective netting all the way to the foul poles, said that he would "hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 25." Twins 2B Brian Dozier, whose team lost to the Yankees yesterday, said, “Every stadium needs to have nets. I don’t care about the damn view of the fan. It’s all about safety" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). In N.Y., John Harper notes yesterday's incident comes less than two months after Yankees RF Aaron Judge "injured an adult man in similar fashion, prompting more calls for the Yankees to follow the Mets’ lead and extend their netting." However, when a child is involved, it "often stirs more emotion." Phillies SS Freddy Galvis last season hit a child with a foul ball, and sources said that Galvis' comments "convinced" the Phillies to "extend their netting last offseason" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/21). ESPN’s Michael Smith noted the Yankees in July said that they are "seriously exploring extending the netting for 2018." Smith: "Maybe it takes a child being involved to really stop it” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/20). ESPN's Mike Golic: “This, unfortunately, is the type of thing that is sometimes the final straw to bring change" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 9/21).

DEALING WITH A POTENTIAL TRAGEDY: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch writes if a young girl "getting struck in the face by a line drive on Wednesday doesn’t compel ownership to act, what else is left besides the unthinkable?" Shame on the Yankees that the Mets "acted more responsibly, extending the netting at Citi Field to 30 feet in height, wrapping around the camera wells beyond both dugouts." Klapisch: "How many more near misses does it take to address the insanity of leaving the public at the mercy of 100-mph line drives?" (Bergen RECORD, 9/21). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes MLB has to be "hit in the face with a cold bucket of common sense." The Mets "extended the netting at Citi Field over the All-Star break," and the Yankees "have to spend the next four days doing the same thing." The team needs to "have it in place by the time they play" the Royals at home on Monday. Common sense has to "carry the day now, because it’s true: One of these days, someone is going to get killed" (N.Y. POST, 9/21).  MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said, "Aren't they going to get to a point where they put the netting up all the way?" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 9/21).

DON'T WAIT UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE: ESPN's John Buccigross said someone "is going to die" if netting is not extended. Buccigross: "It happened in an NHL game in 2002, a little girl got hit by a puck. She was fine the next day. There was a torn artery unbeknownst to doctors and she passed away. Gary Bettman put mandatory netting in both end zones of the NHL rinks. It's been there ever since and there haven’t been any fatalities since. It's time for baseball -- players are hitting the ball too hard and they’re too close” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/21). ESPN's Mark Teixeira said, “It’s like a dangerous intersection. We should put a light here. This is a dangerous intersection. You wait for a fatal crash to put the light in. Don’t wait. Let’s be proactive about this. Put the nets up everywhere and we won’t see this ever again” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/20). 

TALKS CONTINUE WITH TEAMS
: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said extending the netting "remains an ongoing discussion in the industry." He said, "We gave some guidelines two years ago, and what we have done since then is that we have encouraged the individual clubs to engage in a localized process, look at their own stadiums -- every stadium's different -- and to try to make a good decision about how far the netting should go in order to promote fan safety" (ESPN.com, 9/20).  SI.com's Gabriel Baumgaertner writes there are "enough cases" for MLB to "merit mandatory protective netting to, at least, the ends of each dugout." Maybe yesterday’s incident will be "what prompts significant change" (SI.com, 9/21). Twins manager Paul Molitor: "The clubs that have gone beyond what was required have been glad that they did, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets readdressed and they continue to try to expand what they’re trying to do to protect the fans" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/21).

COULD DEMAND FOR CLOSE SEATS DECREASE? On Long Island, David Lennon notes it is "hard to make ... a blanket demand from an engineering standpoint" since Manfred acknowledges all ballparks are different. However, the part that "isn’t discussed as much publicly is the concern expressed by some teams that the netting will make their most expensive seats less desirable." Some fans "don’t want to watch through a screen" and teams are "sensitive to the opinions of their paying customers." Lennon: "Why else would two-thirds of the league be dragging their feet on this critical fan-safety issue?" (NEWSDAY, 9/21). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "When you’re sitting down by the field, you feel like you are right there. ... If there is a net in between you -- and even if you’re still that close -- it’s not the same thing. They don't want to take that away. There is a lot of interaction at times between players in the batter's box, they don't want that stuff to be lost. I get it, I understand that. But you can't have four-year-old girls getting hit in the face with balls either. You just can’t have that” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 9/21).

HIDING BEHIND LEGALESE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan writes "obscene amounts of money go toward ballpark experience and ambience and amenities," but because "courts of law have upheld that the disclaimer on the back of tickets indemnifies teams from balls and bats whirring into the stands, they treat safety as if it’s of no concern." This is "more than negligence," as it is the "witting abdication of moral responsibility." Passan: "It is in every sense of the word shameful." The Nationals, Rangers, Royals and Twins each "introduced extended netting" before the '16 season, with the Pirates, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves and Astros joining them before this season. The Mets proved that "installing new netting in the middle of the year isn’t some unreasonable expectation." Passan: "None of this is excessive. It is right, and it is just, and if teams aren’t willing to act themselves, it is Manfred’s duty to make them" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/21).

CALLING FOR A FIX: Following the incident, Twitter was replete with calls for more netting at ballparks. The official feed of ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" noted, "According to a recent survey by Bloomberg News, approximately 1,750 people are injured at MLB games each year." Yahoo Sports' Passan: "Mitigating this particular risk is especially easy and with few, if any, drawbacks." Chicago-based WSCR-AM's Jay Zawaski: "Imagine being mad about extending the netting at a baseball game. A 3 year old was nearly killed. It's long overdue. Get it done, @mlb." The AP's Alan Saunders: "I would love for every person bitching about netting at baseball games to sit 50 ft away and let MLB players hit 105 MPH liners at them." Reds blogger Doug Gray: "Real shame that baseball is going to have to have someone die before they extend the nets down the lines."

The Coors Field video board in left field "will be replaced by a high-definition video component" this offseason after an agreement between the Rockies and the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, according to Nick Groke of the DENVER POST. The Rockies also will "install a new speaker sound system" at the ballpark. The club will "partner with Daktronics to install a large-format LED video display and scoreboard measuring 8,369 square feet -- about twice as large as the current Coors Field scoreboard." The board will be "uniquely shaped, with a mountain cutout atop the display." The current 10-year-old scoreboard "became outdated quickly, even for a team that prides itself on the classic feel" of its ballpark. The software that runs the board "nearly became incompatible with the board itself, especially as advanced statistics have become a fashionable part of following a baseball game as a fan." Rockies Owner Dick Monfort feels a new scoreboard was a "necessity to ensure Coors Field survives and thrives" (DENVER POST, 9/21).

The Timbers will "begin construction on Providence Park this fall following the conclusion" of the current season and plan to complete the $50M-plus stadium expansion project by April '19, according to Jamie Goldberg of the Portland OREGONIAN. The club was "able to start targeting this offseason as their start date after gaining approval for the project from both the City of Portland's Design Commission and the Portland City Council." The expansion project is "expected to add 4,000 new seats to Providence Park, will include the construction of three new levels and a larger roof on the east side of the stadium, as well as the widening of the sidewalk and the addition of a covered arcade." The Timbers are "expecting to play their first five to six games on the road" in both '18 and '19 due to the construction schedule, but it will "not impact the number of home games that the Timbers play at Providence Park in either season." The Timbers will "not be hosting their annual preseason tournament during construction." Timbers President of Business Mike Golub said that the club is "working to mitigate the impact of the in-season construction on fans." Goldberg notes while no current seats or sight lines will be "impacted by the ongoing construction, certain walkways may be closed during the season" (Portland OREGONIAN, 9/21).

Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico "took a pounding from Hurricane Maria, destroying outfield fencing, batting cages and the statue" of the ballpark's namesake, according to Kevin Spain of USA TODAY. Part of the "visible damage" to the ballpark was the "destruction of the Hiram Bithorn statue out front." The Twins and Indians are slated to play a two-game series there in April 17-18, and MLB will "have to assess the damage to see" if the games can still be played (USATODAY.com, 9/20).

HOLDING UP WELL: In Boston, Karen Guregian reports the NFL is "investigating the condition of Estadia Azteca" in Mexico City following the earthquake there this week. The Patriots and Raiders are scheduled to play there Nov. 19, and NFL Exec VP/Int'l Mark Waller said that the league is "looking into whether that game can go on as planned." Waller: "The initial information from that review is that the stadium is remarkably well." Guregian notes there were "initial reports on social media showing a gap in the stadium." But Waller indicated that "wasn’t caused by the earthquake." Waller: “The initial reports are good, but our commitment to ownership is to give a full report back by tomorrow night -- Thursday night -- and that will cover the stadium, the hotel facilities that we will be using, and also the airport" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/21).

Duke has "removed its 'crow's nest' seating at Cameron Indoor Stadium due to safety concerns," according to Wiseman & Alexander of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. The crow's nest, a "tight structure 'very similar to a catwalk' that hung from the ceiling and was tucked into the rafters at center court above fans," was accessible "only by portable metal ladders that were removed and placed inside the structure once games started." It was "used by the university as 'specialty seating' for auction winners and to house television and radio broadcasters, along with other reporters and video operators during games." Getting in or out of the crow's nest "meant climbing up and down the metal steps." The bottoms of the ladders "rested on an aisle, meaning it would have blocked fans sitting below the crows' nest from leaving if the ladders were always left in the down position." That would have "violated fire codes." Duke Deputy AD/Operations Mike Cragg said that a "review of Cameron as part of the athletics facilities upgrades going on at Duke led the school to make changes this summer." Wiseman & Alexander noted city of Durham records show permits were approved this summer "to remove the old crow's nest and replace it with the current temporary structure." Cragg said that the new permanent structure, "expected to be completed by next basketball season, will be equipped with permanent steps." The 77-year-old, 9,314-seat arena "could lose approximately 30 seats when the renovation is completed" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/21).

Ongoing repairs to the zinc-paneled exterior of U.S. Bank Stadium "remain visible with no hard deadline for completion," according to Rochelle Olson of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority CEO & Exec Dir Rick Evans said Mortenson Construction is "closing in on completing the project." Mortenson Senior VP John Wood added the work would be complete "in the next several weeks." But Olson notes the Vikings are "getting anxious." Vikings Exec VP/Public Affairs & Stadium Development Lester Bagley: "The good news is it's being completed, and we need to get on with it." Wood added, "The priority for everyone involved is to get the work completed. Taxpayers should not pay for it.” Olson notes the building "remains under warranty" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/21). 

Grand Canyon Univ. last night "unveiled the Jerry Colangelo Museum in a VIP event" that honored the man who "was key" to the school becoming a D-I program, according to Richard Obert of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The museum showcases Colangelo's "illustrious sports life, starting from his schoolboy days in Illinois to building the Suns into an NBA Finals team twice and the Diamondbacks into a World Series champion, to rebuilding the USA Basketball team and being the dominant team in the world every four years at the Olympics." Colangelo said, "It's humbling." Obert notes the museum is next to GCU Arena and "connected to the men's basketball team's new practice facility." GCU Colangelo College of Business Dean Randy Gibb said of Colangelo, "He's like the godfather of Phoenix sports. It needed to be done" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 9/21).

In Tampa, Rick Stroud reports the Buccaneers' indoor practice facility "still is under construction," but the team yesterday "held its walk-through indoors in an effort to just escape the heat for about a half hour or so." The team had "hoped the indoor facility would be completed sometime" in September, but it "doesn't appear to be the case." The facility has no air conditioning and some walls are "open and the turf field is not fully installed," though it does have a "roof to shield the sun" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/21).

GETTING HOT IN HERE: In S.F., Scott Ostler notes the 49ers are "now searching for solutions" after not addressing an issue with the temperature inside Levi's Stadium when they designed the facility. Ostler: "Did the 49ers and their stadium-builder, HTNB, conduct computer-climate studies?" HTNB VP/Sports Architecture Lanson Nichols said, "One of the things that was primarily important to the fans, as well as the team, was that this be an open-air stadium: natural grass field, the essence of football being played outdoors. It was never really a mandate to do a roof. You don't normally do those kinds of (computer) comfort studies." He added, "It wasn't really a question that was asked -- 'Is this going to be uncomfortable?' -- because that's kind of a normal condition in an open-air stadium" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/21).

PINBALL WIZARDS: In Columbus, JD Malone reported locally-based bar/arcade Pins Mechanical is "taking over the tower's three suites" at the Party Tower at Nationwide Arena. The suites as part of a multiyear deal will be "outfitted with Pins' wood-and-steel industrial look, along with arcade and pinball machines." The suites are "available for groups to rent" (DISPATCH.com, 9/19).