I delight in reading articles about the new amenities at U.S. Bank Stadium, especially when they point out things like the $500 opportunity to stand in a bar and watch the game on TV (“That Up North feeling at U.S. Bank Stadium,” Sept 8). I understand everyone’s excitement, but I’m known to rain on parades, so here goes:
As cool as the new stadium is, it’s sad when it comes to disability accommodations. And it’s not alone.
I am a Minnesota Lynx season-ticket holder and sit with several disabled fans. During the renovation of Target Center, there is only one working elevator. A friend of mine waited in line 45 minutes to leave the arena after a recent game. Another friend’s assistant was told she could not ride on the elevator because there wasn’t enough room for her and her friend’s wheelchair — which she has to push. When they’ve complained about the situation, they’ve been told things like “Timberwolves fans will have to stand outside in the cold to get into the arena this winter. Hashtag frownyface.”
The staff didn’t get the obvious point: Elevators are not a “convenience” for the disabled; they are absolutely required, and not just because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says so. Wheelchairs cannot go down stairs or escalators.
This should not be a problem in the new football stadium, right? We went during its public open house in July; the elevators were not working upon our arrival. When they were working, they were so small only one or two chairs would fit in them. And that’s provided you can find an elevator. You see, the private clubs at the stadium have separate entrances, presumably to keep the riffraff out. But to comply with ADA rules, they have to be accessible by elevator, so the designers tucked these other elevators away behind closed doors that the disabled cannot operate on their own, and the only signs refer to the club, not the elevators.
Now, I’m not usually a rabble-rouser, but dang if this doesn’t cheese me off. Regarding accessibility, U.S. Bank Stadium is a 21st-century facility with a mid-1990s mentality. I am an able-bodied person. My wife is not, but she does not use a chair or a walker or even a cane, because of her pride. We use the escalators like most other able-bodied people despite her hemiplegia and occasional ataxia. We don’t clog the elevators, because we know how small they are and because so many other people need them. Not want; need.
Next summer, the Lynx will play at Xcel Energy Center while the renovations at Target Center are completed. We’ve been assigned new seats. We were fortunate to get seats that don’t require my wife to climb over other people, and she doesn’t have to climb any stairs. They are regular seats on the aisle at the top of a section, and that will work for us. Our wheelchair-bound friends were assigned roll-in spaces, which is good.
But when our friends asked whether all of the chairs would fit in the space provided, they were given an uncertain answer: This space is not used for wheelchairs at other events; it’s where they put the television cameras. It seems the Xcel is less accommodating than Target Center.
So, I implore you, my fellow citizens and fans, to consider carefully your use of “conveniences” such as elevators. When you see a lack of them — and start looking for them — mention it to someone. They’ll take your concerns more seriously than my friends’, because the disabled are too often simply treated as whiners.
And when you build something, don’t just do the absolute minimum to squeak by the regulations; put some thought into it. That is, unless your whole organization is focused on catering only to the very rich who pay a premium so they don’t have to rub elbows with the rest of us. That’s your prerogative. But then don’t ask for me to pay for a big chunk of your weird, geometrically obscure crystal palace.
OK, maybe I am a rabble-rouser, probably riffraff, too.
Sam Catanzaro lives in Minneapolis.