Rangers start to raise railings

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

Shortly after 39-year-old Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone died from injuries suffered in a fall over a railing in left-center field on July 7, the Rangers inspected 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 Thursday tour of ongoing construction at the park. 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 wanted to accomplish," said Rob Matwick, Rangers executive vice president of ballpark operations. "We got the structural integrity we were looking for."

Matwick also believes that, by requiring a consistent height and using the thinner material, the 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. Once the Rangers have enough to build an entire section or two, they'll install the railing.

The only section that won't see a change is the park's Home Run Porch, because that rail height was already at 42 inches, well above the 26-inch minimum requirement under the International Building Code.

The railings are only part of the offseason construction work going on at the home of the two-time defending AL champions. The Rangers are making about $12 million worth of improvements, including a visitor's 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 of the fixtures and furniture in the facilities and train staff before Opening Day on April 6.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.