Net gains: Cougars installing additional protective barrier in time for season opener

It will be a new look for fans attending Kane County Cougars games at Northwestern Medicine Field this season.

The Cougars are installing additional protective netting, which which will extend around the entire seating bowl. The netting will be installed as part of a two- to three-week process at a cost of between $80,000 and $100,000.

The installation will be done by Opening Day on Thursday, April 4 against Clinton.

“It’s going to be totally different,” Cougars vice president and general manager Curtis Haug said. “The whole fan experience will be much better. There are a lot of positives to it.”

Gone will be the heavy netting and poles behind home plate. The new netting will be anchored by poles down the lines and will be five to six feet taller than the old netting, providing protection for the suite level as well.

The new netting material is made of Dyneema, a thinner material that doesn’t impede fan’s views as much as the old netting. Custom Net Backstops, who installed netting at Midwest League stadiums in Fort Wayne and Lansing, is running the project at Kane County.

“There will be no poles in your way in any spot of the seating area,” Haug said. “You looked at the old posts and the heavy netting; it looked like the Deadliest Catch. It was from the early 1990s. The stuff has come so far that after you sit there for an inning, you don’t even notice it’s there. It’s almost invisible.”

Major League Baseball implemented netting to the end of the dugouts before the 2018 season in the wake of several incidents of fans being injured by bats and balls. Minor League Baseball has had no such mandate, though Haug said it was “strongly suggested.”

“We are excited to be a part of the growing norm of implementing protective netting at MiLB ballparks across the country,” Custom Net Backstops owner Jim Cruea said in a press release.”The Kane County Cougars project will consist of engineering and installing #18 Dyneema netting above the dugouts and down to each of the bullpen areas.”

Of the 160 affiliated minor league baseball teams, only 30 have not extended the netting. The Cougars, though one of the last MiLB teams to extend the netting, are extending it even beyond the dugouts to provide more safety for fans.

“Bottom line is you don’t want to be the last team to do something like this,” Haug said. “We’re already behind, but we’ve talked about it for years. It’s something we wanted to do. I think the fans will appreciate it. The whole experience will be better.

“It will take a little getting used to. That is the case in every ballpark it’s been done in. But at the end of the day, everybody loves it.”