Posted on July 11, 2011 at 9:20 PM
Monday, Jul 11 at 10:28 PM
ARLINGTON - The Texas Rangers will meet with architects of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this week to discuss what can possibly be done to prevent dangerous falls such as the one that killed a firefighter last week.
Shannon Stone, 39, was killed after attempting to catch a ball at the ballpark and then falling over the railing and onto his head 20 feet below.
Contractors and the City of Arlington have already been out to look at the railings in the outfield. While the railing at the ballpark is already above industry standards, some wonder if that standard is good enough.
Most major league ballparks across the country follow the International Building Code. The minimum height for railings at the bottom of aisles is 42 inches. In front of fixed seating, the requirement drops to 26 inches, which is about knee height. A Maryland safety consultant says that’s entirely too low.
“Clearly the railings that are typically installed in the front of the seating stands are not designed to prevent fans from falling over them,” said Jake Pauls, who has been pushing for stricter safety codes at U.S. stadiums and arenas.
Pauls said he wants railings in front of the stands to be raised from a minimum 26 inches to 42 inches.
“It’s a bad situation where you have crowds, particularly crowds trying to do something that the railing was never designed to protect against,” he said.
Since the new Busch Stadium opened in St. Louis five years ago, two people have fallen from the stands. When it opened, fans complained of compromised sight lines, which prompted the Cardinals to lower upper deck railing heights. Now, fans are voicing opposite concerns claiming railings are too low.
At the Angels Stadium in Anaheim, rails blocking fans’ views must be at least 34 inches, but they’re also required to have a three-foot wide horizontal ledge that can support the weight of a fan who falls.
“You could provide a shelf or something below the railing, so if somebody does go over, they would be caught in that shelf area," Pauls said. "So, they wouldn’t fall 15 to 20 feet and be hurt very seriously."
The safety consultant says falls will occur at least once in the lifetime of any stadium. In Arlington, there have been two in the last year, which he says is why safety changes are needed now.