Monday, July 6, 2009

Accessibility Review: Yankee Stadium

We arrived at Yankee Stadium about 5 hours before the game and parking is not supposed to open until 3 hours before the game. However, the place we had a parking pass for is a garage used for more than just the games, so we were able to get in and just had to make sure we handed our pre paid parking pass to the cashier with the pass we got when we entered the garage to get out without paying anything extra. The staff in the garage were pretty much the only friendly and helpful ones we have encountered on the trip. Most of the time they seem inconvenienced to be asked even a simple question such as where the handicap spots are, but here they were friendly including explaining how to get out after the game without an extra fee being charged.

Since we were at the game earlier we walked around the park, which is easy to do because there are no steps anywhere and just flat sidewalks. The only awkward thing we encountered was getting into the Team Shop and Hard Rock Café, which are located next to each other in a corner of the stadium with a few steps up to them from the outside of the stadium. There is a ramp off to the right, but they had barricades blocking the bottom of the ramp and then between the Hard Rock and the Team Shop. It was not too hard to move them and get to the ramp and then the Team Shop, but it was an inconvenience that did not make sense since both the Hard Rock and Team Shop were open.

After the Team Shop we finished walking around the stadium and taking some photos of the shell of Old Yankee Stadium. We then sat on a bench near Gate 6, which was the entry gate marked on our tickets. The line got somewhat long before the gates opened, but we were not in a rush and just got in line as they started to check bags and begin to let people into Yankee Stadium. As we got in line one of the staff at a side entrance that the staff only seemed to be going in through pulled us out of line and let us go in right away that way. All the other entrances including the one we were in line for have a way to go through with a wheelchair and in fact they were not even using the turnstiles at that time, so it was really nice that we got pulled out of line to go in the other way.

The first place we headed once inside Yankee Stadium was Monument Park, which is behind the centerfield wall. To get there you have to go down a set of steps, but they have a special elevator to get down there that is an actual elevator compared to the lifts at Cleveland’s Heritage Park. You have to be escorted on the elevator and then to Monument Park because you end up going through the staff part of the lower level. It was actually pretty cool because we even got a special view of the field through the open centerfield gate (see photo above). This is unique for Mik because the only times he has ever been able to see a field from field level is the one time we sat on the dugout level at the Dbacks and when we took a tour of the old Busch Stadium.

Monument Park itself is accessible once you get there the back way up the ramp. It was not too bad to navigate through the people since we went right when the park opened, however from our seats later we noticed it gets pretty crowded closer to game time. It also seems they close it entirely once the game begins.

After Monument Park it was suggested we head to the Yankee Museum. We tried to get there by elevator, but they do not let you use the elevators near it until two hours before the game because they do not let access to seats above the 100 level until then. They want you to see things like the Monument Park and batting practice before heading to your seats. All fine and good, but it was insulting that they suggested we go to the Museum after the game started because it is supposedly less crowded. Anyways we ignored that stupid usher and just took the ramp up to the museum before it got crowded with everyone like us that came to actually watch the game. It turned out to be a good time to visit the Museum, as it was not too hard to navigate through it all, but it clearly was beginning to become more crowded as we were leaving.

After the museum it was only a few minutes until they lowered the ropes and let people go into the upper levels of seating. Since we were already half way up to our seats on the 300 level we just walked up the ramps to our seats. Our seats were section 314. The usher here actually did a great job of keeping stragglers from wandering into it and even when they ended up in it from the other side he would come in and ask them for their tickets before then kicking them out because they did not have seats there. Keeping standing room people and such out of the section really helps with the game enjoyment, especially being able to actually get out of your section because you have to move your chair backwards to get out due to the spaces being full and their not being that much space between chairs.

The seats were great. The view was pretty good from the seats. The bar in front got in the way of foul territory and the first base foul line, but it was not too hard to see the whole field if you get the chair right up to it. The scoreboard was also easy it see in its entirety from where we were located. Not only do they have cup holders, but Mik says they are in a great location. They are not too high up that they then block the view when you put a cup in it, but they are still high enough up that he could easily get his drink. Only complaints about the seats were how hard they were to get due to the disorganization of the ticket sales department.

Overall Yankee Stadium does a great job of being an accessible park, which is good because with it being a new park I would have accepted no excuses if it had not turned out to be so accessible. Best of all is the elevator situation, which even newer stadiums often fail at for disabled priority. Here they had a row of four near our seats and perhaps more elsewhere in the park. At the end of the game everyone crowded around to go down them, but they are large capacity elevators, so going down would have been fast if we had to wait to get to the front of the crowd. However, we did not even have to do that, as the usher outside the elevator made the people in front move and told them that wheelchairs go first.

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