Access for disabled is much improved
Among other amenities, new stadium has 10 times as many wheelchair spaces.
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998
AMPA -- Though season ticket holders complain about bad seats and players gripe about one of the tiniest locker rooms in the NFL, one group is pleased about Raymond James Stadium: the disabled.
Raymond James has more than 10 times as many wheelchair spaces as Houlihan's Stadium, 712 in all. All the ticket windows and concession counters are low enough to be used by people in wheelchairs. The disabled seating areas have electrical outlets for recharging wheelchair batteries. And the stadium was designed so sightlines from the wheelchair seating are unobstructed. The enormous strides are the result of two years of collaboration between the Tampa Sports Authority and advocacy groups for the disabled.
(TSA officials) wanted to do the right things," said Chuck Porter, a wheelchair user who headed the task force on making the stadium accessible to the handicapped. "They got us involved early. They listened."
During the summer of 1996, before passage of the tax that financed the stadium, Porter began meeting with sports officials about making a new stadium more accessible. At Houlihan's, all 70 of the wheelchair spaces were in the end zone, with companion seats behind, and the stadium had only one accessible bathroom. As the new stadium materialized, Porter spent hours sifting through design plans, making suggestions and visiting the stadium as it was built. The architects responded to every concern, Porter said.
"We've been in lock step with the disabled groups every step of the way," TSA spokeswoman Barbara Casey said. "If they're happy, we're happy."