"Although this project significantly enhanced the gameday experience for many fans ... the same cannot be said for fans with disabilities," the Justice Department's lawsuit states. File Photo by Frank Polich/UPI | License Photo
July 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department is suing Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs after, according to prosecutors, alterations were made to Wrigley Field that discriminate against wheelchair-bound fans.
The suit was filed in federal court in Illinois late last week against the Cubs and three corporate defendants who own and operate Wrigley Field. Officials said the suit followed a three-year investigation and review of the ballpark's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A major renovation and expansion to Wrigley, known as the "1060 Project," began after the 2014 baseball season and is at the heart of the government's 29-page lawsuit.
The Cubs spent hundreds of millions of dollars to reinforce the stadium's structural support, expand seating and add player facilities and fan amenities. The Justice Department suit included several before-and-after images of the stadium to make its case.
"Although this project significantly enhanced the gameday experience for many fans, particularly those able to take advantage of premium clubs and other luxury accommodations, the same cannot be said for fans with disabilities," the department's suit states.
The department says the renovation removed the best wheelchair seating and failed to add wheelchair seating in new premium and group seating areas.
For example, the suit says, Wrigley previously had 15 general admission wheelchair seats "with excellent, unobstructed views over standing spectators on the main bleacher concourse in right field." Those seats were removed to add the "Budweiser Patio."
The suit says the only general admission wheelchair seats left on the main bleacher concourse are three seats in the corner of left field, which are sometimes used for television cameras, and 16 seats in the "Batter's Eye" area in center field.
New wheelchair seating designed for the last row of the general admission areas did not meet ADA standards for accessible design, the suit says.
"The Cubs' decision to cluster wheelchair seats on the porches not only isolates wheelchair users from other fans and confines them to the worst seats in the bleachers -- it also inhibits their ability to watch the game," the complaint states.
"This is because the wheelchair seats on the porches were not constructed to provide lines of sight to the field over standing spectators."
Other elements of the new stadium design that violate the ADA, according to the lawsuit, include paper towel dispensers in restrooms and counter surfaces that are too high to reach from a wheelchair.
The team has denied the accusations in the lawsuit and said the renovation "greatly increased accessibility" by adding elevators and adopting assistive listening technology, according to Sportico.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Freddie Freeman slides safely into home plate, scoring from second base on a single by Justin Turner against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on July 14, 2022. The Dodgers won 4-0. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo