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Chicago Cubs Trial Over Alleged Wrigley Field ADA Violations Opens

Owners of Chicago’s 109-year-old Wrigley Field are on trial this week, facing allegations a $575M stadium renovation project that concluded in 2019 wiped out much of its wheelchair-accessible seating in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


In a bench trial that began Monday and is expected to continue through the week, attorney David Cerda said what accessible seating remains “is located in low-visibility areas with poor angles,” Courthouse News Service reported.

The Cubs, owned by the Ricketts family, say the renovations altered where wheelchair-accessible seats are but that the stadium remains in compliance.

Cerda first filed suit against the Chicago Cubs in 2017, as renovations were underway, on behalf of his son, an avid Cubs fan who has muscular dystrophy. The suit claims Cerda and his son previously enjoyed watching games from a lower box seating area behind home plate that was razed to make way for a bar area. The Cubs' 1060 renovation project, however, relocated wheelchair seating to less appealing areas with poor visibility, far away from the field of play, Cerda said in his suit.

“It's a textbook failure to integrate the seats according to the ADA,” Cerda said in his opening statement, per Courthouse News.

Cerda’s suit closely mirrors a suit filed by federal prosecutors in July 2022 following an investigation into ADA compliance.

“Although this project significantly enhanced the gameday experience for many fans, particularly those able to take advantage of premium clubs and other luxury accommodations, the same cannot be said for fans with disabilities,” the government said in its lawsuit.

“To the contrary, and throughout the 1060 Project, the Cubs removed the best wheelchair seating in the stadium, failed to incorporate wheelchair seating into new premium clubs and group seating areas, designed and constructed wheelchair seating in the last row of general admission areas that does not meet the requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, and failed to remove architectural barriers to access in unaltered portions of Wrigley Field where it was readily achievable to do so.”

According to the federal suit, the stadium has just 44 wheelchair-accessible seats where it should have no fewer than 187 under the ADA — a figure denied by Cubs attorney Donna Welch, who said she counted 225 such seats, Courthouse News reported.

Welch also argued being unable to sit in Cerda's favored seats did not amount to an ADA violation.

“The Cubs need to provide disabled fans with [seating] choices, not the best seats in the house,” Welch said, according to the legal news service.

The bench trial is expected to wrap up Friday. No trial date has been set in the federal suit.

Wrigley Field, built in 1914, is the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. After resisting trends to upgrade amenities and modernize the stadium, the Cubs embarked on the 1060 Project in 2014. The Cubs and the stadium are owned by the Ricketts family, which purchased the franchise in 2009 for an estimated $845M.