The Cubs scored a win in Chicago federal court Wednesday after a judge ruled the $1 billion, multiyear renovation of Wrigley Field, which dramatically updated the century-old ballpark, did not violate accessibility requirements for wheelchair-bound fans.
The decision follows a one-week April trial, and comes nearly six years after Chicago attorney David A. Cerda filed a lawsuit against the team on behalf of his son, David F. Cerda, a lifelong Cubs fan who is confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. The lawsuit alleged the extensive Wrigley rebuild did not provide enough accessible seating to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Wrigley Field, which has 39,510 seats, is required to have at least 209 accessible seats, according to ADA standards. The judge ruled the Cubs hit the magic number — with at least one seat to spare.
There “are at least 210 accessible seats at Wrigley Field — one more than the required minimum,” U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso wrote in his decision. “Although Plaintiff’s situation is unfortunate, he fails to prove that the Defendant violated the ADA.”
Cerda, who attended Cubs games with his son, now 26, since he was 3 months old, tried the case himself, and said he plans to appeal the decision.
“I’m shocked and very disappointed,” Cerda said Thursday.
Launched in 2014 — 100 years after Wrigley held its first opening day — the 1060 Project took place in phases over five years. The extensive renovation included a bleachers expansion, outfield video boards, an expanded grandstand concourse, new restrooms and other amenities. It also designated 225 seats as accessible.
A local and national landmark, Wrigley Field was previously exempted from certain ADA seating requirements. But the extent of the renovations required the Cubs to comply with 2010 ADA standards for wheelchair seating locations that are “substantially equivalent to, or better than, the choices of seating locations and viewing angles available to other spectators.”
In his 2017 lawsuit, Cerda alleged many of the accessible seats were among the “worst views” in the ballpark, too small, not properly dispersed and relegated disabled patrons to isolated areas. The judge, who visited Wrigley Field during the April trial, took a different view of the ballpark’s accessible seating.
“The site visit impressed upon the Court the variety of locations and views on offer for patrons who require accessible seating, as well as that ‘friendly confines’ feeling that is unique to Wrigley Field,” Alonso said in his ruling.
Cubs spokesperson Julian Green said in a statement that the team was “grateful for today’s decision and its validation of our belief we followed accessibility guidelines throughout the 1060 Project.”
The Cubs still face legal challenges to Wrigley’s ADA compliance. Last year, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago filed a lawsuit alleging the team failed to make Wrigley “appropriately accessible” to fans who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities. That lawsuit is ongoing in Chicago federal court.
Cerda also plans to bring his case into extra innings by filing an appeal within 30 days.
“We’re confident that this will be overturned, confident that this should be overturned,” said Cerda, 62.
An apostate Cubs fan, Cerda sat with his son some 15 rows behind home plate for many years. Those seats were moved farther away from the field during the course of the renovation, Cerda said.
After tangling with the team in court, the senior Cerda abandoned the Cubs in 2019, diverging with his son.
“I will never go to another Cubs game as long as I live,” Cerda said. “The plaintiff is continuing to go to Cubs games.”
Source: Berkshire mont