By Philip Haldiman
The Peoria Sports Complex will be a little bit safer come the 2019 spring training opener.
The city is beginning a project to expand the stadium’s netting that wraps around the infield.
The estimated cost to design and install the new netting is $200,000.
The move toward the expansion came after Major League Baseball set forth initiatives earlier this year to help improve fan safety through a focus on expanding netting from the backstop, behind home plate, to over the dugouts and continuing down the foul lines in front of field level seating.
In recent years, the league has seen low-flying balls and broken bats result in injuries to fans, and the expansion was implemented to protect fans in field level seats.
Mike Hyland, superintendent of sports complex operations, said the project is not finalized but the most recent discussions are to have the netting extend to the end of the dugouts but to allow a system capable for further expansion if MLB defines additional requirements in the future.
He said the Peoria Sports Complex home teams — San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners — completed netting expansions at their regular season stadiums prior to the 2018 season and support this initiative.
All 30 Major League Baseball stadiums now have extended netting.
Mr. Hyland said the city is following suit and will have the netting installed early next year before the start of the season.
“In coordination with the city, (the teams) also wanted to promote the MLB fan safety initiative at the Peoria stadium during spring training which some stadiums including Maryvale and Scottsdale Stadiums, that we are aware of, have already put in place in the Cactus League,” he said.
To complete the project in coordination with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners per their current lease agreements, funds from the Sports Complex Improvement Reserve Fund totaling $100,000 will be applied to the netting expansion. Also, a current expenditure authority of $100,000 has already been approved through the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process, from the Sports Complex Improvement Reserve Fund. This amount was requested based off early estimates of this project, but as the project developed, current estimates were higher than the original budget supplemental request, according to a city report.
The league officially recommended extended netting prior to the 2016 season, but Commissioner Rob Manfred said in 2017 it could not unilaterally implement changes due to design variances in the 30 ballparks.
“Providing baseball fans with a variety of seating options when they come to the ballpark, including seats behind protective netting, is important,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Clubs are constantly evaluating the coverage and design of their ballpark netting and I am pleased that they are providing fans an increased inventory of protected seats.”
If you go
What: Spring training opening day, Seattle Mariners versus Oakland Athletics. The rest of the spring training schedule is now available, peoriasportscomplex.com.
When: Feb. 22
Where: Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 N. 83rd Ave.
More info: Single-game tickets will be available 9 a.m. Nov. 28, 2018 at mariners.com or padres.com, as well as 800-677-1227.