The Chicago Cubs are the latest pro team to face a lawsuit over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois filed the lawsuit in federal court in Chicago on Thursday over renovations to Wrigley Field as part of the multi-year 1060 Project.
The lawsuit alleged the Cubs’ $550 million in renovations “removed the best wheelchair seating in the stadium” and many seating areas “do not have adequate sightlines over standing spectators.”
The team allegedly failed to include accessibility in new premium clubs, and the seating is in the last row of the bleachers, blocked by drink rails or standing fans.
At least five other teams in the four major U.S. sports have faced ADA-related lawsuits since 2016.
“It’s just stunning to me that after all these high-profile cases and it being more than 30 years since the ADA was signed, that you still have places just being utterly clueless,” disability rights attorney Amy Robertson told Front Office Sports.
“I don’t know why there are all these problems. I think if a bunch of lawyers can read the code, architects should be able to as well.”
- The ADA, signed into law in 1990, set aside some safe harbor provisions for existing buildings.
- All sports venues like Wrigley Field — the second-oldest ballpark in the majors that opened in 1914 — still had to comply with parking, bathroom and entrance/exit standards.
- But new construction — and any venue built after 1990 — must follow all accessibility requirements of the ADA. Those standards were updated in 2010.
The Cubs said in a statement that they were “disappointed” by the lawsuit and the team added it “fully cooperated” with the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s investigation that dates back to November 2019.
“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,” the Cubs’ statement continued.
The Cubs have company among teams subjected to ADA lawsuits in recent years..
Abdul Nevarez, who lost his right leg and severely injured the other leg along with his left arm in a motorcycle accident, was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the San Francisco 49ers, the City of Santa Clara, and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority over wheelchair access at Levi Stadium.
The lawsuit, filed in 2016, was settled in 2020 for $24 million, a record settlement for an ADA case. The 49ers were able to recoup $6 million from Turner Construction Co. and Devcon, construction companies who sued by the 49ers.
In 2018, a Kroenke Sports and Entertainment subsidiary agreed to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought over lack of captioning on the video boards at Ball Arena, the home of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets. Robertson was the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case.
The Seattle Mariners were sued in 2018 over sightline allegations similar to the Cubs’ lawsuit. While a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that decision last year. The case remains active.
The Baltimore Orioles were sued in 2018 by three wheelchair users over accessibility issues at Camden Yards.
Multiple New Orleans Saints fans have sued over the $450 million renovation of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over concerns the project would hinder access.