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Feds examining whether Wrigley Field renovations comply with Americans with Disabilities Act

Lawyers for the Cubs disclosed the review in a letter Thursday.

Aerial photos of Wrigley Field with fresh sod taken Saturday, April 1, 2017. | Lee Hogan/For the Sun-Times
Aerial photos of Wrigley Field with fresh sod taken Saturday, April 1, 2017.
Lee Hogan/For the Sun-Times

Federal authorities have begun an investigation to determine whether the Chicago Cubs’ years-long renovation of Wrigley Field complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, court records show.

Though the Cubs’ attorneys say they “welcome” the investigation, they also say it will delay the installation of additional accessible seating ahead of the 2020 season.

Lawyers for the Cubs disclosed the investigation in a letter filed Thursday with U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso, who is presiding over a lawsuit brought by David Felimon Cerda, a Cubs fan with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who uses a wheelchair.

Cerda has alleged that as a result of the Cubs’ five-year renovation project at Wrigley, he can no longer sit in his preferred seats there, and his view of the games has gotten worse. He says the team has violated its duty under the ADA.

In the letter to Alonso, Minh N. Vu of the Seyfarth Shaw LLP law firm contended the renovation has actually “significantly increased the accessibility of the ballpark” and added that ADA compliance “is of critical importance to the Cubs.”

Vu explained the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has begun “an ADA Title III compliance review of Wrigley Field and the recent renovations to ensure that Wrigley Field is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities and operated in compliance with the ADA.”

The lawyer told the judge “the review will overlap with some of the issues raised” in the Cerda case.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed the accuracy of the letter.

The Cubs previously expected to add more accessible seating before the 2020 season, Vu wrote. The lawyer explained, “before making this substantial capital investment, however, the team believes it is prudent to place the project on hold and receive any feedback from the (U.S. Attorney’s Office) which might impact this seating.”

The Cubs have described the Wrigley renovation project in court papers as “a privately-funded multi-year renovation to upgrade the ballpark, ensure its viability for future generations of Cubs fans and preserve the historic features fans have come to know and love.”

They also said they “approached this renovation as an opportunity to upgrade Wrigley Field’s accessibility for guests with disabilities in numerous ways,” including more accessible seating, elevators and more accessible restrooms.

Early in 2018, they touted 30 general admission accessible seats for individual ticket holders in the right and left field bleachers, as well as additional seats in the center field bleachers.

They also said they relocated accessible seating behind home plate before the 2017 season and created 22 accessible seats, including some down the first base line where they said accessible seats didn’t previously exist.