originally appeared Access Advocates August 2015
Are you a fan of a particular major league baseball team? Or are you, like so many other people, a fan of the fabulous game itself – regardless of the particular team? If so, you’re not alone. It IS the American pastime. The “American Pastime” starts in earnest in early April and continues until the end of September, during which time a whopping 2430 games are played in thirty stadiums. Though all new facilities are required to comply with the accessibility rules in the Americans with Disabilities Act, how well do the three oldest stadiums measure up when it comes to wheelchair access?
The granddaddy of all U.S. baseball parks is Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. Opened in 1912, Fenway Park says that it is “accessible to everybody” but dig a little deeper and you may be right to worry about whether you can park! That’s because there are only a “limited number of public designated accessible parking spaces” located around the ballpark. Its main facilities are advertised as being fully accessible, however, as are the daily tours of the ballpark.
Fenway’s younger brother (by two years) is historic Wrigley Field, the Chicago home of the Cubs. Like Fenway, Wrigley is built in a “jewel box” style and is known for its ivy-covered walls. But according to Easy Access Chicago, there are “very few” wheelchair accessible seats so fans need to purchase tickets well in advance. And not only are there relatively few handicap-restricted parking spaces on the street, but the accessible parking is located in Cubs’ Red and Purple lots on the west side of Wrigley field, which is “quite far” from stadium entrances. However, accessibility for fans with hearing or vision impairments appears to be quite good.
The third oldest of the MLB’s 30 stadiums is LA’s Dodgers Stadium, built in 1966. Dodger Stadium seems to have fully addressed the needs of fans with disabilities. Discover Los Angeles reports that all of the entry gates in the Stadium accommodate persons using wheelchairs. At most, a fan may need to contact security personnel or any ticket taker for entry. And there is a wide variety of seating choices for fans using wheelchairs. Ample accessible parking helps smooth the way for fans needing them, and cashiers and parking attendants will direct vehicles with valid state-issued disabled parking permits and/or license plate to these areas.
The newer the stadium, of course, the more likely it is to be fully accessible to every fan. According to the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice,new stadiums must assure that at least 1% of the seating is wheelchair seating locations, and accessible seating is required to be an integral part of the seating plan. A companion seat must also be available. And such seating must be dispersed throughout all seating areas and provide a choice of admission prices and views comparable to those for the general public.So what team do you like? Is it easy for you to get to gain wheelchair access and enjoy a game? If you have any questions or concerns about that team’s accessibility compliance, be sure to contact us for more information about making America’s Pastime available to every fan. We can’t make your team win but we can help make sure that you are there to cheer them on.