If Chicago aldermen have their way, the Cubs and Sox will “lead the league in spectator safety” — by installing protective netting that covers the area behind the home and visitors dugouts at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field.
Last year, Chicago became the fourth big-league city in the nation to ban chewing tobacco at baseball stadiums.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a resolution urging the Cubs and Sox to “not only abide by the MLB standards for protective netting, but to exceed such minimum guidelines and lead the league in spectator safety.”
The ordinance was championed by Finance Chairman Edward Burke (14th), who said his original intention was to change the municipal code to require additional protective netting.
The chairman backed off — and agreed to a resolution that merely urges the Cubs and Sox to install more netting — after Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley, raised liability concerns.
“The teams, it’s my understanding, have expressed a commitment to protecting the fans in a way that doesn’t interfere with their viewing of the games,” Burke told his colleagues.
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), a die-hard Sox fan whose ward includes Guaranteed Rate Field, noted that the teams “hear us loud and clear” and are “working to make sure that it’s safe for all of our residents and guests” to Chicago.
“In my discussions with the White Sox organization, they’re moving forward with additional safety provisions moreso than what currently exists where the netting goes just to the dugouts. It’ll be continued further down to cover more of the fans. … It’ll be up for next season.”
White Sox spokesperson Sheena Quinn and Cubs spokesman Julian Green said fan safety is paramount at both ballparks. But, they were non-committal about specific safety measures except to say they would “continue to work with Major League Baseball” to explore additional ways to protect fans.
The need for additional netting was underscored by a lawsuit filed last week by a 60-year-old Schaumburg man.
John “Jay” Loos was hit in the left eye with a line drive foul ball while watching the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley on Aug. 29.
At a news conference Monday, Loos said doctors told him he suffered five broken bones and tore a hole in a sinus.
After three surgeries — with two more scheduled — Loos said he knows doctors might have to replace the eye with a prosthetic.
Tunney supports additional safety measures, but “I’m just concerned about us getting involved in liability for a workplace incident turned foul,” he said. “This has been happening for years. Where does Major League Baseball stand? Do they take responsibility?”
Burke noted the disclaimer on the back of every ticket and said it’s “not in the spirit of welcoming people into the venue.”
Cubs spokesman Julian Green refused to comment on the pending lawsuit or on Burke’s resolution, saying only: “Fan safety is paramount to the game-day experience at Wrigley Field. We will continue to work with Major League Baseball to explore additional ways that ensure our fans enjoy baseball in the safest possible environment.”
A spokesman for the Sox could not be reached.
Also during Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting:
- Aldermen approved an ordinance that would make it a crime for hotels to “fail to monitor and restrict guest access to non-guest areas.” The mandate would require hotels to “install ‘no guest access’ signs at all entry access points to non-guest areas indicating the risk of danger associated with unauthorized access.” Burke said the measure is a response “to the sad tragedy that occurred in Rosemont, where the young lady found herself trapped in a cooler. It’s clear that there ought to be adequate warnings and that the hotel should take responsibility for those areas of the hotel.”
- Aldermen also approved new work rules for Chicago pharmacies in response to a series by the Chicago Tribune that uncovered alleged abuses that potentially endangered their customers.
- And the Finance Committee approved yet another resolution urging the Equifax board to “withhold payment on any bonus, severance package or retirement benefit” from its retiring CEO Richard Smith until the city’s lawsuit against Equifax is resolved. Burke has railed about what he called the “$90 million golden parachute” Smith is about to get on his way out the door. Smith resigned last month in the furor over a data breach that exposed sensitive personal information of up to 143 million Americans.