Thursday, July 16, 2009

Accessibility Review: Orioles Park at Camden Yards

Parking at Orioles Park at Camden Yards was a little confusing, especially since we arrived very early in order to see the Sports Legends Museum, Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, and Geppi Entertainment Museum before the park opened for the game. However, the man running the parking area by the Sports Legends Museum was very helpful about getting on his radio to find out what lot was already open for handicap parking before just sending us to a possibly closed lot. Once there we were surprised parking was only $10 and it is right next to the park near on of the Eutaw Street entrances to the park.

The gates for the Eutaw Street entrance opened two hours before the game. You then can hang out in the Eutaw Street area until the rest of the park opens about an hour and a half before the game. This was kind of boring for us since we had walked Eutaw Street earlier in the day before they closed it to prepare for the game. The only potentially interesting thing is to watch batting practice, but this is not exactly accessible. The main area to watch is behind a wall you have to be standing to see over or down in the outfield seating.

There are a few wheelchair spots in the outfield seating you can get to and then view the batting practice, so we did that. However, these seats are horrible. The view is blocked by a wall to the left of the section. The blockage is so bad you cannot even see 1st base along with a good chunk of right field being blocked. Worst part is that the seats are almost right up against the gate that separates the section from Eutaw Street. I am sure the foot traffic here would be quite a nuisance during the game, as it certainly was at the beginning. Not to mention the path is barely wide enough to even get the wheelchair to the seating section. Boy I am I glad this is not where we had our tickets to sit.

Our seats were in section 78. The seats were at the top of the lower seating section. They were nice and close to the field, especially for only $15 a ticket. However, the upper deck ones would have been better. The issue with these lower ones is that they are not raised up above the seats in front anymore than a normal row. This makes it really hard for you to see sitting down when the people in front stand up, which happened a lot during the game we were at. For a regular physically able person this would be fine, as you could just stand up to continue to try and see the action. However, it is unacceptable in my opinion for handicap rows to be at the back of a section and not raised up above the row in front because many people in wheelchairs cannot stand up when they want to be able to keep seeing the action. I did notice that the upper levels of handicap seating were raised above the row in front. They are not that much cheaper and are farther from the action, but it would be worth it in Mik’s opinion to not have people standing up and ruining the moments he does watch the games.

Overall the game was not a horrible accessible experience, but it was kind of disappointing. However, Orioles Park being the first of the modern era of ballparks I can forgive it for not having worked out the best accessibility. They obviously cared and made there be a lot of up close handicap seating that is not under an overhang and that is rather rare in many parks other than right up on the field, which can be quite expensive. Since we did not sit in the upper sections I have no idea how the elevator situation is here, which often is an issue parks fail at. As for the cup holder issue that Mik always pays attention to, there are no cup holders anywhere, so Mik did not feel left out, but he still does not like not having a cup holder.

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