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Lawsuit: Miller Park’s designs have led to long-ignored ‘wheelchair ghetto’

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//January 25, 2019//

Lawsuit: Miller Park’s designs have led to long-ignored ‘wheelchair ghetto’

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//January 25, 2019//

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A lawsuit accuses the Milwaukee Brewers of establishing a “wheelchair ghetto” in Miller Park where disabled fans aren’t able to have a clear view from their seats of the ball field and are prevented from getting to some parts of the stadium.

Although the plaintiffs in the suit don’t accuse the team of intentionally building a stadium where wheelchair-bound fans are barred from going to certain places, they argue their complaints have long been ignored. Paul Strouse, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview on Friday that his clients are “lifelong Brewer fans” and aren’t seeking monetary damages in the case.

Instead, they hope the suit will force the team to rework the stadium to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA, Strouse said.

“I believe people who have disabilities are still being isolated when they don’t have access to goods and services,” he said. “It’s necessary for them to assert their rights. Otherwise, they are permanently locked out just because they are disabled. It’s unfortunate that since the early ’90s this has been the law.”

The complaint argues that fans who are disabled have a hard time getting a clear view of the ball field from 16 sections of the stadium, places where the general public hasn’t got a similarly obscured line of sight. Additionally, the Aurora Healthcare Bullpen, a field-level section past the stadium’s right-field wall, has no seating that complies with the ADA and can’t be accessed from field-level. The section provides non-disabled fans a “player’s view” of the game but deprives disabled fans of the same experience, according to the suit.

Further deficiencies alleged in the suit include:

  • Emergency exit ramps that are too steep for wheelchairs to go up or down
  • An elevator, supposedly for the disabled, that is an “awkward and difficult contraption”
  • An absence of shuttle service for disabled fans entering or leaving the stadium

The lawsuit argues that the Brewers have enough money to eliminate these deficiencies. As evidence, the lawyers for the plaintiffs point to a $20 million project the team undertook in 2017. That work overhauled Miller Park’s concession stands and bars but did nothing to make the stadium more accommodating to wheelchairs, according to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit names Brewers, the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and various architects who drew up plans for the stadium, including NBBJ Architects, Eppstein Uhen Architects and HKS Architects. The team did not respond to a request for comment by press time Friday and has not yet registered an attorney in the case, which was filed on Wednesday.

Strouse said the lawsuit follows on years of attempts by his clients Julie Withers and Dawn Green to prod the Brewers to make the stadium more accommodating to people with disabilities. The team has largely ignored their requests, he said.

“There is a history here of them trying to get Miller Park to comply,” Strouse said. “When you look at improvements that have been done, (the Brewers) can make the necessary expenditures to bring it up to code compliance.”

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