The US attorney’s office in Chicago filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday alleging that the recent renovation of Wrigley Field violated federal law by failing to make the park “appropriately accessible” for fans who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.
The 19-page lawsuit filed in US District Court comes almost three years ago. after it was revealed that federal authorities had launched an investigation to determine whether the Cubs’ five-year, $1 billion renovation of the centennial ballpark met the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit alleged that the extensive reconstruction of the bleachers and lower grandstand, which was dubbed “Project 1060,” did not provide wheelchair users with adequate visibility compared to standing patrons.
In the lower stand, the suit says, “a wheelchair user can barely see anything of the infield when spectators rise to their feet, often during the most exciting parts of the game.”
In general admission areas, wheelchair seating is largely grouped in the last row of seating sections, depending on suit. The design also did not remove architectural barriers to access in undisturbed portions of the ballpark.
The Cubs also have not added wheelchair seating in new premium clubs and group seating areas, such as the Catalina Club upstairs and the Budweiser Patio in right field, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit names the Cubs and other corporate owners and operators of the Wrigley Field facility as defendants. The lawsuit seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief to remedy the alleged ADA violations.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in an emailed statement that the team had been cooperating with the federal investigation and was “disappointed” with the Justice Department’s decision to sue.
“(We) hope that the matter will be resolved amicably, but we will defend Wrigley Field and our position that it meets fan accessibility requirements,” the statement read. “The renovation of Wrigley Field greatly increased the accessibility of the stadium and was completed in accordance with applicable law and historic preservation standards consistent with the stadium’s designation as a City of Chicago and national landmark.”
In response to the federal investigation, Green said, the Cubs “made several offers to voluntarily improve accessible features of the stadium, including seating, restrooms, concessions and other key accessibility features.”
Meanwhile, the lawsuit includes photos of some of the worst alleged violations of federal law, highlighting bleacher overhaul as particularly bad for wheelchair users.
“The Cubs’ decision to group wheelchair seats on porches not only isolates wheelchair users from other fans and confines them to the worst seats in the stands, but also inhibits their ability to see the game,” the lawsuit states. “This is because the wheelchair seats on the porches were not built to provide sight lines to the field above standing spectators.”
Instead, according to the lawsuit, wheelchair seating is based on a policy that “discourages but does not prevent fans in the stands from sitting and standing in the two rows immediately in front of the wheelchair spaces.” Although the rows are cordoned off and ushers are supposed to enforce the rules, spectators still wander in front of their seats, according to the lawsuit.
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The “Batter’s Eye” area in dead center field, which is covered with a mesh tarp and becomes abnormally hot in the summer, has also been the subject of numerous complaints from wheelchair users, the suit alleges. .
The Cubs first filed a federal review notice in December 2019 as part of a lawsuit brought by a wheelchair-bound fan who alleged that the seats for people with disabilities were worse than before the renovation.
At the time, an attorney representing the team wrote a letter to the judge saying the Cubs believed the reform had “significantly increased the accessibility of the stadium.”
The letter said that ADA compliance “is of critical importance to the Cubs, as is ensuring all fans’ access to Wrigley Field, an aging and historic stadium with a limited physical footprint.”
In the statement released after the lawsuit was filed Thursday, the team said Wrigley Field “is now more accessible than ever in its 108-year history.”
“Wrigley Field has 11 more elevators than before the renovation began, more accessible restrooms, assistive listening technology for hearing-impaired fans, upgraded speakers and sound systems throughout the stadium, and improved online and ticketing systems. for purchase. of seating, including accessible seating,” the statement read.