Lawsuit filed against Chicago Cubs alleging violations of the Disability Act


Lawsuit filed against Chicago Cubs alleging violations of the Disability Act

The much-heralded renovation of Wrigley Field seemingly secured its status as the game’s gem for decades to come, but when it comes to compliance with a federal law protecting access for disabled fans, the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago says the Cubs have struck to have .

After a year-long investigation, U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging the team violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not making Wrigley “reasonably accessible” to fans who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.

The 19-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, comes nearly three years after a separate court filing revealed federal authorities had opened an investigation into whether the Cubs’ five-year $1 billion renovation of the century-old stadium US dollars met the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The lawsuit alleged that the extensive remodeling of the grandstands and lower grandstand, dubbed the “1060 Project,” did not provide adequate viewing conditions for wheelchair users compared to standing spectators. In the lower stands, the suit says, “a wheelchair user can barely see the infield when spectators stand up — often during the most exciting parts of the game.”

In the standing room areas, the wheelchair spaces are mostly bundled in the last row of seats, depending on the suit. The Cubs also failed to incorporate wheelchair seating into new premium clubs and group seating areas, such as the Catalina Club on upper deck and the Budweiser Patio in right field, and the overall design failed to remove architectural barriers to access to unmodified parts of the stadium, according to Men’s suit.

>>> Read Lawsuit: US Attorney Sues Chicago Cubs Over Alleged Disability Violations

The lawsuit names the Cubs and other corporate owners and operators of the Wrigley Field facility as defendants. The government is seeking an injunction that will force the team to remedy any defects at the stadium, as well as unspecified claims for damages “reasonable for injuries sustained”.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in an emailed statement the team had been cooperating with the federal investigation and was “disappointed” with the Justice Department’s decision to sue.

“(We) hope the matter can be resolved amicably, but we will defend Wrigley Field and our position meets fan accessibility requirements,” the statement said. “The renovation of Wrigley Field has significantly improved the ballpark’s accessibility and was completed in accordance with applicable laws and historic preservation standards consistent with the ballpark’s designation as a National and City of Chicago Landmark.”

In response to the federal investigation, Green said the Cubs “have made several offers to voluntarily continue to improve the stadium’s accessible features, including seating, restrooms, concessions and other key accessibility elements.”

However, those claims have been disputed by Chicago attorney David A. Cerda, who in December 2017 filed a lawsuit on behalf of his son David F. Cerda, a lifelong Cubs fan with muscular dystrophy who uses a wheelchair.

Cerda’s lawsuit, which is pending in federal court in Chicago, alleges that the renovated Wrigley Field made it a much worse experience for disabled guests to attend a game.

“We are very pleased that the Department of Justice has addressed one of our key allegations: that out of sheer greed the Cubs replaced the good ADA seating that existed with luxury seats, which barred ADA guests in knowing violation of ADA rights,” said the elder Cerda on Thursday.

Before the renovation, Cerda and his son often sat in an accessible seating area about 15 rows behind home plate. These seats were moved further away from the pitch as part of the renovation.

Other accessible seats in the right field grandstands and upper deck below the press box have been converted to premium seats, Cerda said, relegating disabled guests to less desirable vantage points.

“They did it for money, for greed, for profit,” said Cerda, 61.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit, meanwhile, includes photos of some of the worst alleged violations of federal law, highlighting grandstand overhaul as particularly bad for wheelchair users.

“The Cubs’ decision to group wheelchair spaces on the porches not only isolates wheelchair users from other fans and confines them to the worst seats in the stands, but also hinders their ability to view the game,” the suit reads. “This is because the wheelchair seats on the porches are not designed to provide field views beyond standing spectators.”

Instead, according to the lawsuit, the wheelchair seats rely on a policy that “disables, but does not prevent, grandstand fans from sitting and standing in the two rows immediately in front of the wheelchair spaces.” Although rows are cordoned off and ushers are set to enforce the rules, spectators still wander in front of the seats depending on their suit.

The “Batter’s Eye” area in Dead Centerfield, which is covered in netting and gets unusually hot in the summer, has also been the subject of numerous complaints from wheelchair users, the suit said.

The Cubs first filed a federal audit notice in December 2019 as part of the Cerda lawsuit. At the time, an attorney representing the team wrote a letter to the judge saying the Cubs believed the overhaul had “significantly improved the accessibility of the stadium.”

The letter said that ADA compliance “is critical to the Cubs, as is ensuring all fans have access to Wrigley Field, a historic and aging ballpark with limited physical presence.”

In the statement, released after the lawsuit was filed Thursday, the team said Wrigley Field is “more accessible now than it has ever been in its 108-year history,” with 11 more elevators than before, more accessible restrooms and assistive listening technology for fans using Hearing impairments, enhanced sound systems, and “enhanced ticketing and online systems for seat purchases, including accessible seating”.

Cerda said the 11 elevators added to the renovated Wrigley Field are needed to transport disabled guests far from the good seats they once enjoyed.

“They have more elevators because they need more elevators to push disabled guests to the top of the stands,” he said.

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afternoon meeting


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Cerda’s son, who went to his first Cubs game at 3 months, is now 25 and continues to accompany the team. On Tuesday, he attended his first game at Wrigley Field since the outbreak of the pandemic and watched the Cubs lose for the fifth consecutive season, losing 4-2 to the Baltimore Orioles.

A South Sider native who grew up with the Cubs, the elder Cerda began attending games at Wrigley Field at age 8 and suffered defeats throughout his life, including the team’s epic collapse in 1969, which he left the Fifth row witnessed seats behind first base dugout.

He never wavered in his loyalty until he joined the fight for accessible seating.

“I’ve become a Sox fan,” Cerda said. “I will never set foot in this place again.”

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