Who could have ever seen this coming from a family like the Ricketts?
Even if you’ve been paying attention to the ongoing saga of the Chicago Cubs’ owners actively trying to alienate nearly every fan of their organization, you may have missed the most recent entry into what is becoming known as The Ricketts Family vs. Chicago.
Today, the US Attorney’s Office filed a federal lawsuit against Chicago Baseball Holdings, LLC and others, claiming that Cubs failed to keep Wrigley Field in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) following extensive renovations of the stadium, which began in 2014. That might sound like legal jargon that isn’t all that interesting, but here’s what it means in plain English: The Cubs removed a bunch of features that made Wrigley Field accessible to those in wheelchairs in order to install more premium and luxury seating.
When it comes to taking it directly to the Cubs, the US Attorney’s complaint does not hold back:
The complaint also alleges that the team “failed to remove architectural barriers to access in unaltered portions of Wrigley Field where it was readily achievable to do so. This all occurred even though the Cubs rebuilt much of Wrigley Field as part of the 1060 Project and thus had ample opportunity and a significant ADA obligation to incorporate wheelchair seating and other accessible elements into and throughout the new and improved facility.”
These allegations aren’t news to anyone who follows the Cubs closely. Even before the renovations began, Wrigley Field was notoriously difficult for those with mobility issues to navigate, mostly due to the age of the park. But soon after the renovations were unveiled, there were several accounts of fans in wheelchairs and walkers being unable to get to their seats or the restrooms, both in the grandstand and in the bleachers, circulating on social media. It’s hard to imagine that the Cubs, who are famously sensitive about what is said about them on social media, were unaware of these issues. What is easier to imagine is that they took no steps to rectify the situation between then and now.
The complaint further alleges that, while wheelchair seating in the bleachers was, prior to the renovations, had “excellent, unobstructed views over standing spectators on the main bleacher concourse in right field, but the Cubs eliminated those wheelchair seats during the 1060 Project by converting that space into the Budweiser Patio.” If that sentence doesn’t sum up the Ricketts’ tenure in a nutshell, nothing does. Now, however, wheelchair seating in the bleachers “are located in the last row of the bleachers on newly constructed porches … rather than on the main bleacher concourse level, which is farther forward and closer to the field.”
Worse, many of the designated wheelchair spots in the bleachers are now located in the “batter’s eye” area, which is covered by a mesh tarp. The US Attorney alleges that it gets “unbearably hot” under the tarp, which I can confirm, having once gotten heat stroke under there. What a great place to park people, many of whom are elderly, for three-plus hours! Additionally, there is no policy keeping ambulatory bleacher fans from standing in the batter’s eye, which believe me, happens a lot, because people go there to escape the unrelenting sun in center field. Ushers are supposed to police fans from blocking the views of those in wheelchairs, but they’re usually too busy preventing fans from making beer cup snakes to notice.
The complaint goes on to detail all the other areas of the park where wheelchair seating has been drastically reduced, including places like the Hornitos Hacienda, the Fannie May Sweet (I know), and the Maker’s Mark Barrel Room. The complaint does not mention the cringe factor of having every section of your beloved landmark ballpark named after some cheesy corporate sponsor.
Further, the complaint alleges that Wrigley also has several non-seating issues throughout the park, such as counters, concessions, restroom hand dryers, and ticket windows that are too high for those in wheelchairs to reach, “protruding objects along circulation paths” that can be a danger for those with vision problems, and parking lots with loose gravel and other surfaces that make navigation nearly impossible for wheelchairs. Wow, it’s almost like they prioritized wealthy fans over the disabled when renovating Wrigley.
The US Attorney seeks redress in the form of a court order forcing the Cubs to bring all of Wrigley Field into ADA compliance, compensatory damages to those fans affected by the current state of the ballpark, and additional civil penalties as the US District Court sees fit. Assistant US Attorney Joseph D. Fitzpatrick told Deadspin, “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. We are committed to ensuring equal accessibility for individuals with disabilities.” Deadspin also reached out to the Cubs for comment.
Who could have ever seen such blatant cynicism coming from a family that allowed the team to harbor two domestic abusers and an open homophobe, held a fundraiser for Donald Trump at Wrigley Field, and destroyed the neighborhood around Wrigley so they could build a hotel and cornball restaurants?
Deadspin can happily report, however, that the multiple elevators that bring wealthy fans to their luxury suites are pristine and always in working condition.