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Naturals add net to protect fans at Springdale ballpark

by Laurinda Joenks | February 27, 2020 at 7:22 a.m.
FILE -- The Northwest Arkansas Naturals' Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

SPRINGDALE -- Members of the Public Facilities Board on Wednesday approved spending $215,420 to make Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball safer for fans.

The board voted 3-0 to buy netting to stretch across the entire seating center at Arvest Ballpark where the Naturals play.

The 30-foot-high netting is designed to block speeding baseballs from hitting fans, said Justin Cole, general manager for the Naturals.

"It will be taking line drives out of the equation," Cole said. "But pop flies can still get over it."

The netting will cover section 101 to 120, Cole continued. Netting also will cover the berm in left field where children spend the ball game playing.

Jeff Windle, director of ballpark operations for the Naturals, said the engineering of the netting makes it easy to see through and nearly invisible for fans.

If the weather allows, the project should be completed before the Naturals' opening day April 6, Cole said.

"This is just going to be a part of baseball from now on," Windle said.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in December all major league teams will extend the protective netting in their stadiums past the dugouts, according to news reports. The Naturals are the AA-affiliate team of the Kansas City Royals.

The change came after a 2-year-old girl hit by a foul ball at Minute Maid Park in Houston was hospitalized in May. She suffered a fractured skull, seizure and bleeding, contusions and swelling of the brain. Another 2-year-old girl was hit in the face by a 105-mph line drive at Yankee Stadium in 2017.

The nets at the Bisons stadium were extended for about $400,000, Rich said.

"I see this project as a very important safety issue," said Don Gibson, a member of the Public Facilities Board. "If some kid gets hurt, we'll be thinking why did we delay."

"It will ease all your concerns," Cole said of the netting. "It will get us to the point that we don't have to talk about this safety measure anymore."

Voters in July 2006 approved a $50 million bond issue for the ballpark and related infrastructure such as roads. The Public Facilities Board manages the ballpark and other industrial land for the city.

The Naturals pay about $360,000 a year to rent the stadium from the city.

Installing the netting will require two poles on the playing field just beyond the foul poles in right and left field, Windle said. Multi-Craft Contractors of Springdale worked with local engineers to design the project and build and install the poles. This part of the project cost just more than $100,000.

The netting, support cable and installation will come from C&H Netting for $113,391, Cole said. C&H, based in Florida, installed Arvest's original netting and netting at 28 major league ballparks.

In addition, the Naturals will replace carpet in five seating suites with laminate vinyl for $11,079. The team also will replace lights in the office and concession stands with LED lights for $12,236.

The team steadily has replaced lighting for more than two years, including on the field, under the canopy, at the park's entrance and in the parking lot.

NW News on 02/27/2020

This story was originally published at 1:00 a.m.

Print Headline: Naturals add net to protect fans


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