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Unfriendly confinement at the Friendly Confines

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Northwestern hosts Illinois at Wrigley Field this Saturday in the first college football game on the North Side since 1938.  But because of accessibility issues at the Friendly Confines, Dan and I won't be there. In fact, this weekend's spectacle reminds me of an experience I had at Wrigley Field a few years back.
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Northwestern plays Illinois at Wrigley Field on Saturday, a game Chris and Dan won't be attending. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Anyone who has read our blog profile knows that I am a White Sox fan. In the summer of 2008, I came to further appreciate this fact. I had an unfortunate experience dealing with
the Cubs Accessible Ticket Office. I have no intention of unfairly criticizing the Cubs even though they are a rival of the White Sox. Everything I am about to discuss is real.  

The official capacity of Wrigley Field in 2008 was 41,160 people. Of that number, the ballpark has approximately 120 seats that are accessible to wheelchair users. Overall these seats are very mediocre.  Ensuring that seats are always available for people with disabilities is important to the Cubs organization. The guest in a wheelchair must be present at the time the tickets are picked up. The Cubs will not mail out accessible tickets to guarantee that they are sold only to people who require them. This is all perfectly acceptable given the age of the facility. 

The following is my problem with the way accessible seating is handled at Wrigley Field. I was visiting a friend who lived near Wrigley Field three weeks before I was planning on going to a Cubs game versus the Dodgers. I had already ordered the tickets, and I stopped by the box office. Even though I had my ID and my wheelchair with me, they refused to give me my tickets. They told me that all tickets for the wheelchair seating area are picked up on the day of the game only. This was extremely frustrating! It appeared that the Cubs were creating undue hardship for people with disabilities who wanted to watch a game. It was not important that I showed up in person to get my tickets. 

Why is it that people with disabilities seemingly need to jump through hoops to obtain tickets that they have already ordered and paid for? Is it because the Cubs don't need to be accommodating to get wheelchair users to buy their product? Or could it be that the Cubs do not want people with disabilities to sell their tickets through Stub Hub, a site which has an agreement with Major League Baseball? Whatever the reason, their absurd requirement to pick up the tickets on the day of the game reeks of discrimination. And unfortunately, the Cubs are not the only organization that struggles when it comes to accessible tickets

After my experience, I decided that something needed to be done to rectify the situation.  I contacted Equip for Equality to speak with one of their disability advocacy lawyers.  After checking into the situation, the advocate told me that many people with disabilities are content with the way the Wrigley Field box office handles things. Unfortunately, there are too many people who are unaware that there is a better way to address accessible tickets and seating at ballparks.  I wish that I could do more to change the situation, but I feel that I have exhausted enough options.  I don't mean to hang the Cubs out to dry, but there are too many Chicago area teams that do a better job accommodating the needs and concerns of people with disabilities.  I will pass on the torch to anyone who wants to take up this issue.   

I will never visit Wrigley Field again, even to watch Northwestern face Illinois in football on Saturday.  And I am especially glad that I never need to go there in order to follow my favorite baseball team. The official capacity of U.S. Cellular Field is 38,900 people.  There are over 400 wheelchair accessible spaces. I have been to the old Busch Stadium, Miller Park, and various Spring Training parks. I have been to Schaumburg Flyers and Kane County Cougars minor league games. I have even attended a couple Chicago Bandits professional softball games. Wrigley Field is at the bottom of the list when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities. Dealing with their backwards policy is nothing more than unfriendly confinement.



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1 Comment

Seth said:

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While I admire your diligence and advocacy for an important issue, I love the way the cubs handle wheelchair seating. Instead of paying outrageously inflated ticket broker prices (i.e. stub hub), my father and I pay $50 for right-behind home plate seats to basically any game. I consider visiting the will-call box a small price to pay for the freedom from traditional supply and demand, where tickets of a caliber similar to the wheelchair section would easily fetch 3 times what we pay. Saturday games, Cardinal games, Sox vs Cubs-- we have never had a problem with availability, even for very coveted games. This is a deal that most fans would kill for.

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