Last year, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos asked the city of Pensacola to provide safety netting to protect fans along the right and left field lines, but CFO Dick Barker balked and refused, citing no contractual obligation to do so.
This year, with Major League Baseball scrutinizing which minor league teams to keep and the safety of their stadiums, the City of Pensacola is putting up the nets. It may have also helped that Barker is no longer the CFO.
City, Blue Wahoos to Expand Protective Netting at Wahoos Stadium
The City of Pensacola and Pensacola Blue Wahoos have partnered to expand the protective netting at Blue Wahoos Stadium, increasing safety for fans and employees as concerns about the dangers of foul balls increase throughout Minor League Baseball.The protective netting will now run the entire length of both baselines at the stadium, which will protect fans in the stands while they are enjoying the game.
The City of Pensacola is paying for the cost of the netting, and the Blue Wahoos are executing the contract and installing the nets. The additional netting is expected to be installed by opening day for the 2020 season, which is Thursday, April 9.
“We have a great partnership with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and are glad to provide this additional safety for fans as they continue to enjoy Minor League Baseball here in Pensacola,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “The Blue Wahoos are a tremendous asset in our community, and we are looking forward to a wonderful, safe season ahead for their team, employees and fans.”
This season, all 30 Major League Baseball teams are extending netting at their respective stadiums. In addition, the Blue Wahoos join 18 Minor League teams who have announced they will extend their netting prior to Opening Day 2020.
“We really commend Mayor Robinson for stepping up and putting fan safety first,” Blue Wahoos owner Quint Studer said. “I know the Minnesota Twins are thrilled with the City of Pensacola’s decision and we are certainly thrilled with the city’s decision to extend the netting.”
The installed netting will still allow fans opportunities for player autographs. A portion of the netting will be retractable to allow players to sign autographs prior to the game at certain areas along the baseline.
The netting is approximately 30 feet by 84 feet and will be extended from the current position at the end of both dugouts to the foul pole — a distance of approximately 250 feet.
On May 29, 2019, a 2-year-old girl was struck by a foul ball at a Houston Astros game and suffered serious injury. This incident further ramped up calls throughout baseball to extend the netting.
“Our players last season went to the Twins (management) and said, ‘We’re nervous about foul balls going into the seats at Blue Wahoos Stadium,'” Studer said. “The Twins then wrote a letter to me and to the City of Pensacola requesting the netting be extended. It was based on the players’ concerns for our fans.”
Blue Wahoos and City of Pensacola leadership agreed that the safety of fans and the public is the number one priority at the stadium and decided to work together to extend the netting.
“We started calculating the data and it became a ‘must-have’ for our ballpark,” Studer said. “So many people are looking at their phones or bring their young children to games. We want people to relax during games, and I think this will bring a more relaxed atmosphere.”