Take Me Out to the Ballgame
This is a working draft of a book I am working on. Please send comments. I hope to make this version more "web-friendly."
San Francisco Giants
Santa Clara University
San Jose Giants
San Jose Sharks
San Jose Rhinos
San Jose SabreCats
Golden State Warriors
Purpose of this book
I wrote this book because I wanted to read it. I mean that I wish there was something like it. My son and I have gone to many sporting events. The first one was the East-West Shrine game at Stanford when Eric was 3 months old. Of course, at that age, it wasnt any problem. As he got older I kept trying to carry him to sporting events.
Eventually he got older (and coincidentally so did I) and we used his wheelchair more often. Now the wheelchair is a necessity. Over the years Eric and I have gone to many of the sports venues in the Bay Area. This is a great area to be a sports fan. I would like to think it is a great area to be a sports fan in a wheelchair, or a parent or friend of someone in a wheelchair.
The second purpose of this book is to indirectly praise those who make the effort to make their facility reasonably accessible. Of course, I also intend to give the needle to those who do not. This will all be just my opinion and I am very anxious to hear other opinions.
The final purpose of this book is that I hope it leads to a tradition of sorts. As a walkable I am not the best person to write this book. As a single parent I have biases that are perhaps different than yours. It would be great if this publication became a compendium of many ideas.
My fondest hope is that someone would take over this book and add to it. I also hope that sport facilities would send computer readable images that could be used in these pages. It would be nice if for each sports facility there was a picture of the facility (inside and/or outside), a schematic showing seating areas and a map giving basic directions to the facility.
In this book I will often refer to an attendant. The attendant is the one person who sits next to the person in the wheelchair. The person in the wheelchair may be fully independent or may need consistent monitoring of the oxygen flow or whatever. Either way there is one person who is the attendant.
3s a crowd
The reason for stipulating that one person is the attendant is because most handicapped seating areas are limited in size. If one person in a wheelchair brings father, mother, 3 brothers, 4 sisters, 9 cousins, etc. the handicapped section is closed off to everyone else. This makes a bigger difference some places than it does others. I will try to point this out when we look at each sporting venue.
Having stated this principle I must admit that I have tried and sometimes succeeded in getting around it. After all, I love my son but a single parent needs to have a date once in a while. (Married in 2001 so this one attendant deal is really getting old). Sometimes the wheelchair section is full or nearly so even if the game is not close to a sellout (ex., ice skating events at San Jose Arena) and sometimes there is a lot of handicapped seating available when the crowd is a pretty respectable size (ex., Arena football at San Jose Arena).
Why Handicapped Business is Good Business
This chapter is written with the sports venue managers in mind. I think there are several good reasons why wheelchair patrons are good business.
Some people go to a sporting event and they do not feel safe. This is because some events do bring out some rowdy fans and bring out the worst in some of them. When wheelchairs are present people naturally act a little bit safer: not so much running in the concourses, not as likely to send a frisbee flying in their direction, and so on.
Wheelchair users almost never go alone. Well, sports fans in general tend to go in pairs anyway. But I bet wheelchair patrons and their attendants do their fair share at the concession stands IF they are accessible.
Wheelchair users will tend to park in the closest (i.e. most expensive) parking areas. In the case of the San Jose Sharks this means $10 going to the Sharks instead of another parking lot vendor 3 blocks away.
I have often seen fans run onto the playing field, start a fight or get arrested. I have never seen a person in a wheelchair do any of these things yet. Someday it may happen.
Wheelchair fans tend to show up early and buy tickets ahead of time.
The curb cutouts of our modern day society benefit many kinds of people. I say this because of the many uses of curb cutouts that do not require wheelchairs: strollers, bikes, roller bladers, skateboarders (ignoring the obnoxious ones), kids with toy wagons, delivery personnel with hand carts, people on crutches, people with arthritis and more. Even though the curb cutouts were planned with wheelchairs in mind, they are often used by others.
The same is true in the sports venues. The wheelchair section might be used by: people who cant bend their knees because of a cast or other medical condition, a parent with a very young child might need to hold the child and pace for a while (and some wheelchair sections can be used this way), security or medical personnel might use the area for a multitude of reasons, photographers and video camera operators might use the area (more on that later), and so on.
Roscoe Maples Pavilion on the Stanford Campus
You would think that a progressive thinking institution like Stanford University would take care of its handicapped fans. The provisions at Maples Pavilion are pretty good.
The Stanford Universitys womens basketball games are the best sports value in the San Francisco Bay area. It isnt even a very close contest. Stanford has been among the very best in the nation for several years in a row. They were champions in 1990 and 1992 and reached the final four a couple of times besides those. Their coach, Tara Vanderveer, coached the 1996 Olympic team.
Note that I did not say it was the best sports value for people in wheelchairs. The qualification is simply unnecessary. Wheelchairs (and their attendants) sit in one location regardless of the price of the ticket so buy general admission. A seasons ticket (about 14 games) is around $120. The wheelchair section is behind the basket at the south end of the arena (I know when I say something like south end of an arena it means absolutely nothing unless you happen to take a compass with you to the game.) The only people in front of you SHOULD be a few VIPs sitting at designated tables (sometimes including past Stanford players) and the occasionally annoying camera types. Local camera people are okay but when Texas comes to town you may get a lot of someones backside.
Entrance to Maples Pavilion is through the back door. Handicapped parking is available in the parking lot on the South Side of Maples. A security guard will open a gate for wheelchairs and take your tickets. You then proceed down a narrow asphalt path that goes just past the statue of a discus thrower down the hill and then head left toward a door that should be open (it always is when I check it). Once inside, head in the general direction of the arena floor and you will see a ramp that leads to the wheelchair section. For non-basketball events, seating may be different. For gymnastics (which may not be in Maples Pavilion) the wheelchair area is used for other purposes. For the latest information on the Stanford's women's team, see their web site.
UPDATE: Policies at Maples Pavilion have changed. There is finally an elevator which allows wheelchairs to get up to the main concourse. There is seating up there for wheelchairs and the floor seating is still available but much of it has been taken away. I wish I could be more definite about ticket prices and locations but my son doesn't want to go these games anymore.
The seating arrangements for the mens basketball games are the same as for the womens. The womens teams have been drawing about the same as the mens teams but a big mens game will still be harder to get tickets to than the womens games. Always try to purchase tickets in advance. Showing up an hour early to get into a very slow moving ticket purchase line is no guarantee that you will be able to buy tickets.
Volleyball is usually at Maples Pavilion but may occasionally be in Burnham Pavilion. (The women tend to be at Maples and the men at Burnham. By the way, Burnham has been renamed and I don't know the name.) At Maples, the access is the same as for basketball but the wheelchair section is not used. The reasons are not clear (fear of wild spikes?). In these cases, the best you can do is have the attendant sit on the bottom bleacher and the wheelchair right next to you, maybe at an angle so you dont feel like youre sitting in tandem formation. At Burnham you could transfer someone to one of the bleachers and hide the wheelchair underneath (theoritically possible at Maples but more difficult). The womens season is in the fall and they usually are in Maples Pavilion. The mens season is in the spring and conflicts with the basketball schedule puts most of their games in Burnham Pavilion.
Gymnastics are held in Burnham pavilion except for big meets or tournaments which are in Maples. At Burnham I try to transfer my son to the bleacher seats and then put the wheelchair under the bleachers. The bleachers fill up quickly.
If Stanford is the best place to take a wheelchair to a basketball game then it may also be the worst place to go to a football game. First, Stanford violates at least the spirit of the ADA by charging wheelchair people reserved seat prices in the middle of a general admission section (the South End Zone section Y). There are other wheelchair sections that are in reserved seat sections. The general admission seat section for wheelchairs is in section ZZ under a tree. Now sometimes that tree is kind of nice and shady so some non-wheelchair types make their way to the same section. I have talked to Mr. Huston of the Stanford Athletic Department but got no satisfactory answer for this set of circumstances. In short, the stadium is old and cannot accommodate the number of wheelchair patrons that it should. You can find out about Stanford football and other Stanford teams at the Stanford Athletics website.
Stanford Sunken Diamond
The handicapped seating area at Sunken Diamond is getting progressively better. Recently, a paved area was created just for wheelchairs. This section has a board that prevents wheelchairs from rolling down the hill (next stop would be first base). Lately, they have also created a "green belt" in front of the wheelchair section so the grass-sitting crowd doesn't use your knees as a seat back. There are also new wooden folding chairs that replaced the plastic, cheaper versions. Stanford deserves high marks for improving what was an unsatisfactory situation. You still cannot get a wheelchair to the third base side of the field and the picnic table area is inaccessible.
Parking in the handicapped section of near Sunken Diamond is a problem: narrow spots, difficult to get into or out of and often filled up. I prefer to park back by the Track House parking lot and make the longer walk or park at Maples Pavilion.
Stanford Soccer Field
Stanford's men and women soccer teams have a new field. It is very nice that they built this new facility for these teams. I wish they had considered wheelchairs for just a few seconds during the design. If you are in a wheelchair, they only place for you is to park yourself along the main walkway in front of everyone else. Your attendant can sit behind you. This is similar to the situation at volleyball games in Maples Pavilion but more awkward. Perhaps this will be fixed in the near future.
San Jose Arena
The San Jose Arena is state of the art for wheelchair accessibility. Wheelchair areas are available in nearly every ticket price category. Parking at the arena is expensive ($10 for Sharks games) but the spaces are wide and close to the arena entrance. The bathrooms have large stalls and so many regular sized stalls that you probably wont have to arm-wrestle someone for the handicapped stall.
If you call for tickets to a San Jose Arena event and intend to pick up the tickets at Will Call, you should know that the Will Call window is a long way from the Handicapped Parking Areas in the attached parking lot. You should either park in an unattached area (might still cost $10 and you have to cross a busy street to boot) or ask that the tickets be held for you at the North ticket window.
The Arena prints wheelchair or attendant on every ticket. This way they control the 1:1 ratio of wheelchair attendees to attendants. This is perfect for single parents of single kids (like me) but tough for everyone else (including me on a date). Here is one thing I noticed when the Warriors played at the San Jose Arena for one year. The arena will sell tickets in the handicapped section to whoever wants to pay the price just before game time. I used this information to my advantage a couple of times. When I purchase tickets just before game time (say about 4pm when the game starts at 7:30) I can ask for a wheelchair ticket and two attendants. They will tell me that they have a 1:1 policy but they check with the manager. The arena wants to sell these tickets because they cost a lot so they bend the policy.
Some events will not sell tickets over the phone, you have to go to the San Jose Arena ticket office in person and be quite specific about where you want to sit. The person at the window will probably not know how to give you tickets for the handicapped area and will get help from the manager.
Ticket pricing policy varies per event. Wheelchair seating is usually located between two different price zones. The Sharks charge the lower of the two zones. The Rhinos charge the higher of the two zones. The SaberCats charge the lower price for the wheelchair and the higher price for the attendant. Im not sure what is the morally or politically correct policy. (Particularly since hundreds of people from the lower priced zone will move down and sit in front of you. Kind of difficult for a wheelchair to do that.)
Tickets to Sharks games are expensive and hard to come by. My strategy is to pick out a few games and expect to pay a lot. The 1:1 ratio for wheelchairs and attendants is closely enforced. The only exception I ever saw at a Sharks game involved a celebrity who probably paid quite a bit for those tickets. You can buy tickets right next to the ice but if you do, dont try to use the ledge as a cup holder. The boards (for the safety of the players) have a lot of give in them. The Sharks have a website that is pretty decent.
The Rhinos games are not well attended yet. The only tickets available are in the lower half of the arena. Although the Rhinos charge the price for the tickets that are closer to the rink, the price is still reasonable.
UPDATE: The roller hockey league has a habit of going in and out of business. As of June 2000, they are not playing and the future does not look good.
The SaberCats have done a great job of pulling in the fans. Ticket prices are much higher than roller hockey and attendance is around 80% of capacity. I found a website for the SaberCats but it might be an unofficial one.
UPDATE: The SaberCats are not drawing 80% of capacity and tickets are relatively easy to get. Note that they put on a wild and noisy show. If cannon blasts are a problem, be forewarned.
The San Jose Grizzlies were the indoor soccer team but they have ceased operations.
San Jose Municipal Stadium
Municipal Stadium is a great ballpark for the baseball fan. Food is varied and reasonably priced. Tickets are $5 for general admission (including the handicapped area). The handicapped area is located behind first base and very close to the Giants dugout. This gives you a very visceral feel for the game. Now the bad news. First, minor league stadium dugouts arent palaces so some players set on chairs just outside the dugout and just in front of you. Second, the conversations that you hear from the players are just what you would expect at a frat house party. Third, you sit right next to grass and the ants think they were invited to your picnic.
These problems cannot be resolved but here are some suggestions. Sit as far away from the dugout as you can within the handicapped section. Bug spray is not a bad idea but try not to gas the players. Dont follow tradition and drop napkins or old ice cream wrappers on the ground (the trash basket is right behind you).
For the 1996 season, the San Jose Giants built a small platform for the wheelchairs. This probably solves the ant problem. Also, it appears that someone asked the players to stay in the dugout. There are still some annoyances. The San Jose Giants do a large number of promotions that require assembling fans right next to the wheelchair section so that they can enter the field between innings. Eventually these assemblages temporarily block your vision. I think the San Jose Giants deserve credit for trying to make improvements in a relatively old facility.
The worst experience of my life at a public event was at Spartan Stadium but it was at a rock concert, not a sporting event. Consider the following when going to Spartan Stadium:
available parking is a rumor; dont believe it,
traffic is not a rumor; believe it,
coolers may not be permitted even though the signs do not exclude them and even though most other venues (like Municipal Stadium across the street) allow them.
The Earthquakes (nee Clash) bring a very diverse crowd. The wheelchair sections are on either side of the main grandstand facing East (sun doesn't blind you). At one game, the police were trying to control a drunk and didn't get him under control until he was practically at our feet. Large sections of the crowd boo when the public address announcer suggests that they shouldn't throw things on the field. There is some good food available at the games but they are a long distance away (if you just want a hot dog, that's nearby).
If you try to buy a ticket and the clerk doesn't know where the wheelchair section is, suggest section 107.
There are few venues as frustrating for wheelchairs as Toso Pavilion on the campus of Santa Clara University. The parking area for handicapped is hard to find at night. Then after you go up the ramp to the front door you see that you are commanded to go through an air lock, thats right, an air lock. You see, Toso Pavilion has a roof that is held up by air pressure and open doors are a big detriment to air pressure. So while the walkables go through revolving doors, wheelchairs go through an air lock. You push a large button and one door opens and you enter the air lock. You have to move all the way into the air lock or the door behind you will not close (a prerequisite for getting the second door to open). Even so the door will not close for about a full minute and if two wheelchairs attempt this maneuver at the same time it may never close. Eventually one hopes the second door opens when you push the second large button.
Now that you are inside you proceed to the handicapped section, right? Well, there isnt any. The last time I was at Toso, a University employee told me to go back outside (yep, through the air lock of terror) and around to the back of the building where she would let us in so that we could sit on the floor level instead of the mezzanine level. This we did. The next time we go there, where should we go? If we dont go upstairs no one will be looking for us downstairs. Also, food and drinks are only available on the upstairs level. I could not find very much information on Santa Clara University athletics. You can get some information at their General Information website.
UPDATE: The air bubble roof is being replaced with a rigid roof. This wasn't done initially because they couldn't built a rigid roof on top of that structure at that site - too heavy. New materials make the rigid roof possible and I assume the airlock madness will go away.
The Santa Clara Broncos play some exciting basketball but they dont get the headlines that their Pac-10 neighbors get. The womens games are sparsely attended and sometimes are played as "prelims" to the mens games. When Stanford plays there it is hard to figure out who is the home team. You can get some phone numbers for Santa Clara athletics on the web.
Buck Shaw Stadium
Buck Shaw Stadium is on the campus of Santa Clara University. This stadium hosts baseball, football and soccer contests. The wheelchair seating is in a couple of small cutout areas along the lower walkway. If there is no usher present, I don't know how you get a chair for the attendant so you might want to bring your own. If you aren't aware please note that Santa Clara is very serious about their soccer.
Candlestick Park (OK, 3Com Park)
UPDATE: Obviously, the Giants now play at PacBell Park. Just as obvious, I haven't figured out how to get tickets there yet. Stay tuned. The rest of this section is just for grins. I'll delete it someday.
Lets hope they build a new ball park just so wheelchairs can be more comfortably accommodated. There are sections for wheelchairs along both foul lines; closer to the outfield fence than to first or third base. These sections are in back of the lower reserved seats but you pay lower reserved seat prices (sections 17 and 19). These seats are in a good spot if it rains but otherwise are constantly in shadow which means they could be cold on nearly any summer day.
There is an alternative to these seats. You can attempt a transfer to a regular seat and then somehow get the wheelchair to the customer relations office. There they will store the wheelchair (please fold it up as much as possible) and, on some occasions, will bring the chair to a location near you after the game. This is not a very comfortable proposition. First, the attendant has to leave the wheelchair person alone while returning and probably while retrieving the wheelchair. Hopefully, one of the many kids at the park will catch any foul balls hit during batting practice. Second, finding the customer relations office can require some practice (Hint: use the ramps instead of the slow elevator - find room 408).
Another option is the centerfield bleachers, sections I & J. The first row of these sections have some of the seats removed and you can put a wheelchair along side of a normal seat. This is great but Im now going to tell you something that most of the ticket sellers do not. You can purchase these seats and they should say something like Section I, Row 1, Seats 1&2. What you might get is seat 1 rows 1 & 2. Apparently printing these wheelchair tickets is tricky so the ticket seller gives you what they can figure out and hope that you clear it up with the usher when you get there.
Actually, the Giants and at least one other team (the San Diego Padres) deliberately put wheelchairs in one row and expect the attendant to be satisfied sitting in the row in front or behind. Now, your situation may be different but I have to help my son hold a drink and adjust the positioning of a hotdog. This kind of seating is unacceptable and the only thing we can do is avoid certain events (or at least certain areas).
Beware that some of the vendors do not have straws. In my sons case a straw is required so it might be a good idea to take one of those so-called sports cups with you, the ones that have the permanent straws in them.
Besides the areas mentioned above, there are some other areas for wheelchairs scattered throughout the park. You can see some of the wheelchair locations if you go to the San Francisco Giants Virtual Dugout, their website. The last I looked they did not show the seats in the centerfield bleachers.
The Cow Palace
The Cow Palace was never meant for anything except for what the name implies and I cant tell you enough about how I hate it. Is it worse for wheelchairs? How could it be. The fact is that after getting stuck in a traffic line trying to get IN to the Cow Palace (it took more than an hour and we thought we were early) I havent returned to the Cow Palace in the last 15 years.
The Spiders played hockey in the IHL. They have ceased operations.
Oakland - Alameda County Stadium
The handicapped seating that we were given the last time I was in the stadium it was in the very back of the first level (like section 17 and 19 in the old Candlestick Park). These aren't bad seats and you are somewhat protected from people who like to watch the game while standing behind you. You are also probably far enough away that a foul ball is unlikely to bop you on the head. But the scoreboard is difficult or impossible to see and the TV monitors that are placed back there don't always work. Also, you are in the shade and may need a sweater even during a warm day in August.
Oakland - Alameda County Arena
The newly renovated arena opened for the 1997-1998 season. I haven't been there since the reopening.