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Department of Justice Sues Chicago Cubs for ADA Violations after Wrigley Field Renovation

Wrigley Field in Chicago is one of major league baseball’s most iconic stadiums. More than 100 years old, the ballpark recently completed more than a hundred-million-dollar renovation to modernize and update it.

However, the Cubs organization is now facing a federal lawsuit for allegations that the stadium violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to public filings, the lawsuit alleges that the remodeling “removed the best wheelchair seating in the stadium, failed to incorporate wheelchair seating into new premium clubs and group seating areas, designed and constructed wheelchair seating in the last row of general admission areas that does not meet the requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, and failed to remove architectural barriers to access in unaltered portions of Wrigley Field where it was readily achievable to do so.”

The 1060 Project, as the renovation was known, is charged with discriminating against individuals with disabilities in a statement by the United States Attorney’s Office. “The Cubs rebuilt much of Wrigley Field and had ample opportunity – and a significant ADA obligation – to incorporate wheelchair seating and other accessible elements into the updated facility,” said John Lausch, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois via statement.

Lausch said that the renovation, including tearing down and rebuilding the bleacher and lower grandstand, was subject to ADA requirements, but failed to provide the necessary accommodations.

Title III of the ADA makes it illegal for public accommodations (including sports stadiums) to exclude people with disabilities from enjoying the facilities. The lawsuit provides several specific examples of how the renovations affected people with disabilities:

  • The renovations added new premium and club seating while eliminating wheelchair seating except for those that are part of a group that has rented the space.
  • The only general wheelchair seats on the bleacher concourse are now in areas that are often obscured by television cameras or covered by a mesh tarp that prevents a line of sight to the field if spectators are standing.
  • Some new group seating areas are not wheelchair-accessible.
  • More than half of the wheelchair seats in the lower grandstand are in the very last row with obstructed views from overhangs.

Besides field viewing, the lawsuit also alleges that counters for ticket windows and concession stands are too high for wheelchair users and restrooms have paper towel dispensers that are too high.

In a statement, the Cubs said they are disappointed with the decision by the Department of Justice to file suit and hope to resolve the matter amicably. The DOJ is seeking changes to the facility and fines.