Club in early stages of railing installation

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rangers are in the early stages of installation of railings throughout Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in an effort to make the park safer for fans.

Shortly after the passing of 39-year-old Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone, who died from injuries suffered in a fall over a railing in left-center field on July 7, 2011, the Rangers investigated the park’s railings and decided to raise them to 42 inches in the front row at all levels. The club said the entire park will have the new railings by Opening Day at a cost of approximately $1.1 million.

A few pieces of railing were installed in the outfield recently and shown to the media during a tour of ongoing construction at the park on Thursday. The railings are cut out of thinner bar stock than the previous round ones. And the top is flat, but juts inward, making it even tougher for fans to lean over it.

“We accomplished what we want to accomplish,” said Rob Matwick, Rangers executive VP of ballpark operations. “We got the structural integrity we were looking for.”

Matwick also believes that by going with a consistent height and using the thinner material that sight lines won’t be a problem.

“I think it will actually improve the sight line overall,” Matwick said.

The railings are being fabricated now and once they have enough to do an entire section or two, they’ll come out and install them. The entire ballpark will have new railing in time for Opening Day. The only section that won’t see a change is the Home Run Porch because that rail height was already at 42 inches, well above the minimum requirement of 26 inches allowed under the International Building Code.

Matwick isn’t sure that Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has the height railing of similar facilities in the country, but acknowledged “it’s got to be one of the highest.”

The railings are only part of the offseason construction work going on at the home of the AL champions the past two seasons. The team is making around $12 million worth of improvements to the park, including: a visiting bullpen that will be oriented along the outfield wall (instead of straight back, making it difficult for those in the dugout to see anyone warming up), a new restaurant/sports bar, an indoor Kids Zone, concession areas in the outfield and an indoor seating club area built at the top of Greene’s Hill (the grassy batter’s eye).

Construction crews are working 20-hour days, six days a week to get the project completed by March 20, which would give the Rangers time to get all the fixtures and furniture in the facilities and train staff before Opening Day on April 6.

More on the construction coming shortly.

As a brief aside: I sat down and looked and I agree with Matwick on the sight lines. They really aren't bad. The thinner material helps. And the way it's designed, it offers more protection if fans try to lean. Again, this won't change the club's stressing that fans not lean on the rails. But the club promised to raise the railings and get it done by Opening Day and they are on their way.