CHICAGO (WLS) -- The reconstruction of Wrigley Field was a massive, multi-year project costing hundreds of millions of dollars intended to make the century-old ballpark stand for another 100 years.
While the Cubs said the renovations improved accessibility for those with disabilities to see the games, the federal government apparently believes otherwise.
In a lawsuit the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed Thursday alleges the Cubs violated American Disability Act standards.
"The 1060 Project has had a significant adverse impact on individuals with disabilities and their ability to access Wrigley Field. This reduced accessibility at the stadium relates both to wheelchair seating and non-seating elements," according to the filing.
Some experts, like John Morris, host of the website wheelchairtravel.org, agreed.
"Wrigley Field is a historic ballpark, but given the extent of renovation that's been carried out there, I believe they could have paid greater attention to accessibility," Morris said.
The federal lawsuit accuses the Cubs of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide adequate sight lines for fans in wheelchairs, and alleges that wheelchair areas are clustered in the last row of seating sections. In some instances they are seated behind fans who stand and block the view.
"Where disabled people are made to experience something less than their non-disabled peers that is something of concern," MMoris said.
The Chicago Cubs issued a statement in response to the lawsuit saying, "We are disappointed in the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to file suit and hope the matter can be resolved amicably, but we will defend Wrigley Field and our position it meets accessibility requirements for fans. 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."Wrigley Field is now more accessible than ever in its 108-year history, demonstrated by increasing accessible seating options by more than 50 percent on and across more levels and in more locations. Wrigley Field has 11 more elevators than it did prior to the start of the renovation, more accessible restroom facilities, assistive listening technology for fans with hearing impairments, enhanced audio speakers and sound systems throughout the ballpark, and upgraded ticketing and online systems for purchase of seating, including accessible seating. The Friendly Confines today is more welcoming than ever to fans with accessibility needs."
Morris said he's a big baseball fan and recalls sitting in unobstructed seats several rows behind home plate at Wrigley Field before the renovations occurred.
"The intent of the American with Disability Act was to ensure that disabled persons had the equivalent experience at sporting events and really in all aspects of society," Morris said.
The lawsuit asks the Cubs to make changes to come into compliance and also asks the judge to issue a fine against the team. The Cubs said they hope to settle this amicably.