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New safety nets in place at BB&T Ballpark

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With just over a month until the Charlotte Knights home opener, big changes to BB&T Ballpark are taking shape.

An extended safety net around part of the stands is now up and ready in an effort to block fans from being hit by anything during games.

"I don't know if it's more prevalent now or maybe I'm just noticing it," said Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski.

We've seen scary situations at ballparks around the country and it's something major and minor league teams are keeping a closer eye on: bats, or balls putting fans in danger.

"We might not be ready for that 90-mile-per-hour ball coming off that bat," said Knights fan Mike Bullard. "Much less the bat flying into the stands."

Bullard was the first person to ever get tickets to the new BB&T Ballpark back in 2014, and he says the Knights' latest safety initiative should be welcomed by anyone at the games.

"I'm actually happy to see the net put up," Bullard said. "I think it's another great addition and I don't think it's going to obstruct any view."

That's the one knock on these new extended safety nets, which were constructed over the last four weeks. But for some fans, the games are a social night out, not about what's happening on the diamond.

"We'll tell our fans you got to be watching this, this is a game where bats and balls do go into the stands," Rajkowski said. "But I think a lot of people find they're on their phones and not watching when they should be."

Rajkowski says one of the reasons they were more urgent to get this done sooner than later is the close proximity of the stands to the foul line.

"Which is good for fan experience, but it also creates a tighter footprint for us," Rajkowski said.
It's the same net that was always behind the plate, but now it just extends to the end of each dugout.

Rajkowski knows it won't protect everyone, but it's a big step to keep Knights fans secure.

"We just wanted to get ahead of it," Rajkowski said. "And I think we did and in the end I think it's a good thing for our fans."

These nets will be put on display in a hurry. The first game at the park is next week between UNC-Charlotte and Georgia.