At yesterday’s baseball game at Turner Field a fan fell from an upper level platform and died. The cause of the fall onto a parking lot surface – lack of sobriety, accident, foul play, poor judgment, rain soaking the walking paths – has not been confirmed.
I’ve written about this subject before. It wasn’t pleasant then and it’s not now.
Teams do all in their power to cram as many spectator seats into as small of a land footprint as possible, stacking upper decks on top of middle tier concourses on top of field level boxes. Walking ramp after walking ramp after walking ramp. Flight of stairs after flight of stairs after flight of stairs.
But as stadiums went through a phase of growing taller with more seats (the capacity trend slows today, as Cinergy Field in Cincinnati and its 53,000 capacity gave way to Great American Ballpark and it’s 42,300 capacity) patrons were forced higher off the ground with steeper stairs to climb. Despite the additional rails, guards, and protections the risk of falling still exists.
The NFL claims that safety is the #1 priority for the league (player safety, that is). However, there are lots of things teams can do to prevent lapses in fan safety, but among extra padding and gates and walls and glass and nets and smaller stadiums, how far will teams go to maximize protection without disrupting the fan experience?