Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Accessibility Review: Rogers Centre

The lack of thought towards accessibility should have been obvious from the start, but it did not really set in until we were shown were our seats actually were. The parking garage located on one side of the Rogers Centre had only one handicap spot available when we got there (not sure if they had any more as they are marked on the ground and totally unrecognizable when parked in). We were then informed that they do not have an elevator and we had to walk up the car ramp that goes in and out of the garage. Not too bad, but it is quite a hill, and they did at least actively tell us where to park without us asking where the handicap spots were and also right away told us how to get out of the garage.

Out of the parking garage we ended up at the hotel corner of the Rogers Centre. From there we could not walk to the right because there were stairs. Thus we went to the left up a ramp to try to get to Gate 7, which was the entrance gate marked on our ticket. We again ended up at steps outside Gate 3 and thus could not get to Gate 7. However, Gate 3 is a handicap entrance only and the elevators are right there, so that worked out. Going into the game we had no problem with the elevators, as it was not a general public entrance. At the end of the game, however, as usual one group of elevators were filled before we got on and we almost did not get on that one because a pushy guy with a kid in a stroller tried to get in front of Mik, but Dad was aggressive back and we squished into that load.

When we got up to the 100 level we easily found section 112, where we originally had tickets. However, the handicap seats were nowhere to be found. We asked an usher and she showed us to the concourse and pointed to here are your seats and began to set out two chairs right there on the concourse. There are no markings or anything, but this is what the Canadian $9 handicap seats are. It was basically just as bad as at Dodger Stadium, but at least not so expensive. However, the real issue is that they have a fence of vertical bars right in front (see example in above photos) making it impossible for someone seated (i.e. in a wheelchair) to see the game except by leaning forward and peering through the cracks. Basically they are standing room type seats and you actually need to stand to see the game. Right away we decided this was not going to work and went to see if we could upgrade. Later we found this seating area was full of a wheelchair group along with being crowded with people standing.

The seats we actually ended up with were in section 120. They are also on the concourse, but they are set apart and actually have the seats number and such. The seats were located right behind home plate and were about as good as the Cubs tickets, but for a crap team like the Blue Jays who do not even come anywhere near filling up their stadium it is sad that we were forced to pay Canadian $49 per ticket just to see the game from a wheelchair section. The guy said they have some in the upper section, but they are supposedly worse just because they are all the way at the top. However, they looked better than the tickets we originally had and would have been better than feeling ripped off and being upsold to these seats.

Sitting in section 120 was not horrible, but it also was not worth the price. First of all they are the most expensive seats at the game and the same price as those right on the field in that section, so it is kind of a rip off that you cannot pay that much and actually be right up by the field with a wheelchair. The view was great with the whole field visible and the bar in front not getting in the way of viewing the game. I thought the glass panel above the bar might be an issue, but it was not and unless you really zoom in on the photos you probably will not even notice that half the photo of the whole field is being viewed through the glass. Mik, of course, was disappointed in there being no cup holders, but he was not mad because the regular section also lacked them. The biggest issue, however, was that there was a lot of people standing behind the section making it a maze to get out of the seats and onto the concourse to get stuff. Of further annoyance was that the fans frequently did not pay attention to the yellow line and crowded oue section including a man that kept getting food and drinks for his kids in the row below us and passing it down to them by almost coming right in front of us, which blocked the view of first base and the outfield. This is something that could easily be fixed if they had a rope behind every part of the handicap section, as our part was the only one that lacked that, or at least put an usher there.

Overall I was very disappointed at the experience at the Rogers Centre. It was not as bad as Dodger Stadium, as the overall atmosphere was not quite as bad as at the Dodger game and the ushers we did encounter were friendly here. It is, however, the worst accessible park we have been to so far. It is also entirely unacceptable because it is a fairly new park. The thing that really gets me is they have the nerve to sell those Canadian $9 wheelchair seats that are impossible to see the game from. I will never again go here with Mik and actually sit in the Rogers Centre.

So how would I do it instead? Well, the Rogers Centre is quite unique. It has a hotel and a Hard Rock Café in it that do not offer access to the rest of the Centre (i.e. team shop, concourses, concessions, the field). The hotel and Hard Rock do however offer great outfield views of the game. One possibility is to get a table at the Hard Rock Café right up against the windows that overlook the park and watch the game that way. However, I do not really like the Hard Rock, so that would be sort of a waste of money like the $49 seats are. The hotel option sounds like it could be great, as it would just like having a suite. Mik thought it would be cool because he could watch television or do something else if he was not into the game. It might not be a cheap hotel, but that would certainly be a worth it type expense for an accessible way of enjoying the game.

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