Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovation and restoration for the past three offseasons, and there will be at least two more before the project is complete. Apart from the bullpens being moved under the bleachers, I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of what the Cubs have done to the ballpark and surrounding area.
One Cubs fan who needs to use a wheelchair, though, isn’t happy with some of the changes in seating for people with disabilities and he has filed a lawsuit:
A 20-year-old Cubs fan who uses a wheelchair is alleging in a lawsuit that Wrigley Field renovations have eliminated or excluded some handicapped-accessible seating at the stadium in violation of federal law.
David F. Cerda, who has muscular dystrophy and has used a wheelchair since age 10, says in his federal lawsuit that the Cubs owners’ $750 million renovation project removed wheelchair-accessible sections in the right-field bleachers where he had long enjoyed watching games and replaced them with a bar. The team also pushed the accessible seats behind home plate back several rows, making it impossible to see the “whole field of play” when spectators in front of him were standing, according to the lawsuit.
I cannot speak to this particular individual’s case; you can read more details at the link. The article concludes:
Cerda’s lawsuit alleges that the ADA requires the team to “provide wheelchair spectators with choices of seating locations and view angles that are substantially equivalent to, or better than, the choices of seating locations and viewing angles available to other spectators.” It asks the Cubs to place accessible seating in the left and right field bleachers that complies with the federal law, restoring the lower box seating behind home plate as well as add front-row seating there and to pay Cerda’s legal fees.
The elder Cerda said the judge hearing the case does have the power to order a remedy as extreme as rebuilding the bleachers.
“They can be ordered to rebuild the stadium to comply with the ADA,” he said.
(“The elder Cerda” refers to the 20-year-old’s father.)
While I don’t think this case will result in such extreme measures, I can tell you that Cerda is at least partly correct in his statement about ADA seating in the bleachers.
When the area that the suit refers to was changed in 2015 to a party patio, there was an ADA seating area constructed above the center-field batters eye suite (the glassed-in area above the juniper bushes in center field). Before the 2017 season, this area was also glassed-in — rumor was that players and umpires complained about not having that as part of the hitters background, although it was only a small area where often there were just a handful of people sitting. This caused significant issues for people sitting in that area, who had been generally OK with it prior to 2017, except for a few occasions where Cubs staff overcrowded it (it’s meant for no more than 30 people).
One of those people is Donna Wakefield, a bleacher season-ticket holder who has been a personal friend for over a decade. Here’s what she told me about her experience as a season-ticket holder with a ticket specifically designated “ADA”:
I usually attend about 70 games a year on my season ticket. For the past three years it has been a dedicated ADA ticket. That means I have a folding chair in a cage because I can’t do stairs at all. The ADA section of the cage has three walls that are chain-link fence and one wall that is mirrored glass even though it’s not supposed to be mirrored. It is very hot in there; it holds the hot air in. It is segregated from the rest of the crowd and the law says you can’t isolate people with disabilities.
There are approximately 30 seats in the ADA section in the bleachers. Five of them are in an open window area that is actually designed for television cameras. I sit there when there are no cameras.
When there are cameras I have occasionally sat behind home plate, I have tried both of the porches but that’s doesn’t work as people stand in front of me. I tend to end up leaving the game when that happens within about 15 minutes of getting there. It’s very frustrating, very expensive, but I go to watch baseball. I don’t go for all of the other fodder all that’s going on in the ballpark. I have requested to know or be informed when the cameras are going to be there but that seems to get thrown around a lot and nobody can tell me when the cameras will be there.
Chuck Young was hired to be an ADA supervisor. His main functions appear to be moving wheelchairs around before the game to make sure they spread out correctly and relocating anyone who has problems with their seating because they need ADA seating and asked for it and checking to make sure all of his ADA customers are happy.
I’ve been told by Carl Rice that no one has complained about the ADA section to him. Chuck Young told me he had at least eight in writing and a lot that were verbal.
I’ve been in that area in the bleachers. It is, in fact, extremely hot on warm days and the glare off the glass is such that you really can’t see much of the action on the field. It’s almost worse for night games when the lights glare off the glass. And the fact that TV cameras have taken over the one open area (no glass) on many days means that there’s often no suitable place for ADA seating at all.
There is another area in the bleachers, just adjacent to where I normally sit in the left-field corner, where Cubs staff has put people in wheelchairs or who are otherwise mobility-impaired. But often, there is a TV camera in that corner as well, which means that on many days there really aren’t any suitable seats in the bleachers that are equivalent to what other bleacher ticket holders can have.
I’m not sure where this lawsuit is going to go. I reached out to the Cubs for comment but a team spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation.
But I do know that putting the glass over the ADA section in center field reduced visibility and created uncomfortable conditions for ADA ticketholders to the point that it’s really not a viable ADA seating area. The glass should be removed; that would provide ADA seating for around 30 people.
Here are some photos of the area in center field so you can see the issues Donna Wakefield mentioned.