With concerns surfacing about how extended netting could affect the fan experience for professional soccer matches, Albuquerque officials say they will consider installing retractable netting at Isotopes Park.
Since last year, Isotopes Park has been serving as a dual Minor League Baseball-pro soccer facility, hosting both the Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Division II USL Championship’s New Mexico United. The city recently announced that protective netting at the ballpark would be extended from the far ends of the dugouts to the foul poles, reflecting one of the trends that is currently playing out throughout the professional baseball industry amidst a wave of extended netting projects.
That project is prompting concerns from United ownership and the team’s fans, who believe that permanent extended netting would hamper the experience for professional soccer matches. Although it has not committed to doing so just yet, Albuquerque will explore the possibility of installing some type of retractable netting at the facility that could be raised for Isotopes games and lowered for United matches. Specifically, the city will consider areas such as cost and whether Isotopes Park can accommodate netting that is retractable or removable in some form. More from the Albuquerque Journal:
United owner Peter Trevisani said that the team’s players like to jump into the stands after scoring goals and go into the crowd after games to sign autographs and take pictures. He said using non-retractable netting would be “baffling.”
“We want to create as few barriers as possible,” he said.
[The city’s chief operating Lawrence] Rael told reporters late Friday that the city will examine whether a retractable or removable netting system would work at the ballpark and at what cost.
“We will explore whether or not there’s an opportunity to make the netting somewhat retractable so we can either raise it or lower it or take it down during the United games so the fan experience is much more enjoyable,” he said.
Retractable netting systems have not been an uncommon solution for professional ballparks that also host soccer clubs, so there is a precedent among facilities that serve similar purposes as Isotopes Park. At the same time, every ballpark has its own design intricacies that have to be accounted for when extended netting projects take place, so it remains to be seen what Albuquerque officials will determine to be a workable solution.
The Isotopes have played at Isotopes Park since 2003, with United beginning play last year. Long term, the soccer club’s goal is to build its own stadium elsewhere in Albuqerque, but in the interim it will be working to build off of a successful inaugural season that saw it lead USL Championship in attendance.