ADA on Deck: Lawsuit Contends Stadium Not Accessible

  February 6, 2018

By Dan Hounsell

Nearly 28 years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a number of institutional and commercial facilities continue to wrestle with challenges created by the need to ensure accessibility to buildings for all. That group of facilities includes venerable Wrigley Field, according to a lawsuit.

A 20-year-old Chicago 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, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.

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.

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The owners’ decisions seem driven more by profits rather than concern for the law or accommodating all of their fans, said Cerda’s father, David A. Cerda, an attorney known for handling police misconduct litigation, who filed the lawsuit on his son’s behalf. The Cubs in their renovation work “have a duty to comply” with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s requirement that “wheelchair spaces be an integral part of the seating plan,” the lawsuit says. He recalls how his son once met Cubs owner Tom Ricketts in the wheelchair-accessible section of the right-field bleachers, shaking his hand not long after the Ricketts family bought the team in 2009. Five years later, the bleachers were demolished.

“I really don't understand how they could do what they did,” Cerda’s father says. “They tore the right and left bleachers to the ground. When you rebuild it from the ground up, it’s a new building and you have to comply with the ADA.”

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The right-field bleachers, which were torn down along with the left-field bleachers in 2014 as part of an expansion that added 300 seats, now have a bar and ticketing area where the accessible seating was previously located, the lawsuit states. While the left-field bleachers didn’t have accessible seating before the rehab, none was added during the renovation, though a bar was installed there, too, according to the lawsuit.

Cerda says his son remains a Cubs fan but misses the opportunity to sit out in the sun in the right-field bleachers. The two now typically sit in accessible seating in a standing-room-only section under the grandstand “with obstructed views,” he says.

The seating area in the front row behind home plate has been moved back further from home plate, he alleges in his lawsuit. The Cubs are building a 7,200-square-foot “VIP experience” called the American Airlines 1914 Club under the seats between the dugouts behind home plate, but the team has not said whether it will restore the accessible front-row seats there, the lawsuit says. That new area is expected to open at the start of the 2018 season.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.


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