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Friday, July 30, 2004
Wrigley protective netting is in place

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- City building inspectors gave the go-ahead for the Chicago Cubs to play at Wrigley Field on Friday after protective netting was installed to keep chunks of concrete from falling from the upper deck onto fans.

Buildings Commissioner Stan Kaderbek announced early Friday that inspectors accepted an interim safety inspection report the Cubs submitted to the city, clearing the way for an afternoon game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"The netting is a prudent precaution intended to make the ballpark's seating areas safe for the general public," Kaderbek said, adding that a final safety report will be required after the Cubs complete its inspection of the entire park.

The nets will remain up all season as a safety measure, Cubs president and CEO Andy MacPhail said Friday. Inspections indicated no structural problems with the upper deck, he said.

The city could have prevented the game at the 90-year-old ballpark if the netting wasn't fully installed or if inspectors concluded it didn't adequately protect fans. The netted area covers seating beneath the upper deck.

Kaderbek said more than 50 percent of the upper deck had not been inspected, adding that no deadline has been set for when the inspection should be completed. The netting should be able to protect the fans beneath it, he said, noting that it is designed to withstand the fall of a 350-pound chunk of concrete falling 50 feet. Kaderbek said there are no indications that would happen.

The Cubs have committed to performing a visual inspection of the underside of all non-netted areas before all games at Wrigley Field, Kaderbek said. The city also has directed the Cubs to give annual, hands-on inspections and to notify the city of any dangerous conditions.

There have been three reports of falling concrete at the stadium since June. No injuries have been reported.

On June 9, a fan told the city a piece of concrete fell along the first-base side of the park. The fan said the debris was the size of a small brick.

The second piece of falling concrete was reported by a man who said the chunk, measuring about 6 inches long and 3 inches thick, nearly struck his 5-year-old son at a game on July 16.

A Wrigley Field employee found a third piece of concrete July 21, Cubs officials said. That piece was about the size of the palm of a hand.