The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the Chicago Cubs, alleging the Major League Baseball (MLB) team failed to ensure that recent redevelopment work at Wrigley Field adhered to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The lawsuit alleges that the team’s multi-year ‘1060 Project’ discriminated against individuals with disabilities. To facilitate the changes made by the 1060 Project, the Cubs rebuilt a sizable portion of the pre-existing Wrigley Field facility, including demolishing and reconstructing the bleachers and tearing down most of the lower grandstand and rebuilding it. These extensive changes were subject to the ADA’s requirements for design, construction, and alterations, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that throughout the 1060 Project, the Cubs failed to provide wheelchair users with adequate sightlines as compared to standing patrons, or incorporate wheelchair seating into new premium clubs and group seating areas.
In the general admission areas, the Cubs are said to have designed and constructed the wheelchair seating so that it is largely clustered in the last row of seating sections – in violation of 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 lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, names as defendants the Cubs and other corporate owners and operators of Wrigley Field. It is seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief to remedy the alleged ADA violations.
“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 R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to ensuring equal accessibility for individuals with disabilities.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, added: “For 32 years, the ADA has set clear requirements to ensure that public venues such as sports facilities are accessible. The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the law to ensure that fans with disabilities and their families are able to enjoy their ballpark experience.”
The investigation into the new-look Wrigley Field’s compliance with the ADA first emerged in December 2019 when a lawyer for the team filed a letter as part of a lawsuit brought by David Felimon Cerda, a Cubs fan with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who uses a wheelchair.
His attorney and father, David Alberto Cerda, told the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday (Thursday) that the 1060 Project served to remove “excellent” accessible seats behind home plate and elsewhere in the ballpark. He said those seats were replaced with luxury or premium seating areas. “The whole enterprise with regard to ADA seating was pure greed over the rights of ADA patrons,” added David Alberto Cerda.
In response, the Cubs said they are “disappointed” in the Department of Justice’s decision to file suit and added they “hope the matter can be resolved amicably, but we will defend Wrigley Field and our position it meets accessibility requirements for fans.”
The Cubs continued: “The renovation of Wrigley Field greatly increased accessibility of the ballpark and was completed in accordance with applicable law and historic preservation standards consistent with the ballpark’s designation as a National and City of Chicago landmark.
“Since the Department of Justice’s initiation of its review in November 2019, we have fully cooperated with every inquiry and made several offers to voluntarily further enhance accessible features of the ballpark, including seating, restrooms, concessions and other key accessibility elements, in response to the Department’s inquiry.”