In the wake of Shannon Stone’s tragic fall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and a nearly disastrous fall last night during the All-Star Home Run Derby, a safety consultant is calling for higher railings at ballparks across the country.
There’s no uniform building code for ballparks; team determine things like railing heights in conjunction with local officials, though in general they meet the minimum requirements in the International Building Code: 26 inches high in front of seats and 42 inches high at the bottom of aisles. (Some teams exceed these minimums.) Fans, in general, hate railings when they interfere with sightlines; they love them after someone falls and is injured.
At Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the minimums were in place. But Jake Pauls, a safety consultant, wants to see these railings heightened; for instance, the rail in front of seating should be 42 inches, not 26. Another safety feature that could be implemented: a shelf in front of the seating that could catch a fan who fell over the rail — high enough to add safety but low enough to not block viewing of game action.
But the question needs to be asked: to what point do you protect people from themselves? Even though there has been plenty of news about Stone’s tragic death, that didn’t stop fans at last night’s MLB Home-run Derby at Chase Field from acting recklessly in pursuit of home runs — in fact, one fan almost fell from the stands after standing on a metal table trying to snare a homer, according to this account in the Arizona Republic. You can build for safety all you want, but short of stripping the ballpark of things like metal tables or seating of any sort, it’s virtually impossible to protect a a misguided fan from their own actions.
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