With Target Center and Target Field, one misses the mark on access

July 26, 2024, is the 34th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was monumental […]

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July 26, 2024, is the 34th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was monumental legislation intended to provide consistency of national standards in fighting discrimination against all disabled people no matter what the disability and to integrate full participation in society. 

Nobody expected it to be the last word or the only word on fighting discrimination. Everybody expected that some people and entities would do better than the minimum national standards, but that nobody could do less. 

There are two side by side sports facilities in downtown Minneapolis that demonstrate two poles. Target Field exceeds the minimum standards. There are elevators and ramps built into the structure. There are seating areas without fixed seats for wheelchair use scattered throughout the stands at every conceivable price point. No seats are far distant from rest rooms, drinking fountains and food concessions. 

Target Center is an example of a facility trying to do less than the minimum national standards. It was closed for remodeling in 2017. The remodeling design was approved by the building owners, the City of Minneapolis, to allow a configuration for basketball used by the Timberwolves and the Lynx that is in direct violation of the ADA. The ADA (Sec 12183, 2) spells out that when existing facilities are altered in any way that could affect the usability of the facility, it must be done in such a manner that to the maximum extent feasible the alterations are readily accessible and useable by individuals with disabilities. Target Center has done the opposite. 

The ADA guarantees the accessibility of every seat in the Target Center in a manner appropriate to the individual’s needs. Target Center was designed and built for fans to enter the seating area at two levels, ground level where the court is, and from the concourse with food concessions between the top of the seating section and the upper tier of seats. The Timberwolves/Lynx configuration for basketball after the 2017 remodel makes all the area of the ground level floor an exclusive zone for use only by patrons who can afford “courtside” seats, eliminating access to lower rows of seats from below. The Timberwolves/Lynx require all fans with seats in lower rows (out of 20) to “use entry and exit methods allowed by [Timberwolves/Lynx] policies”. The only method to enter and exit any seats from row A to row T is by going down 40 cement stairs. Going down means going up again to exit at the game’s end, or to use a rest room or get food or drink. There are no other methods allowed. 

The Timberwolves have declared row U, the row behind fixed seating at the top of the bowl on the food concession concourse level, “ADA Designated Seating” and “ADA Accessible Seating”. They refer to all other fixed seats in the entire arena as “non-ADA Accessible Seating”. They want to limit everyone with any mobility limitation to that one row of seats. Out of a capacity of 20,000 only one row of seats for any person with any adaptive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, arm extension supports or canes, must sit in one row . . . or maybe one or two from the top down two to four  steps if they can physically do that, but nothing closer to the court at all. This scheme is in direct contradiction of the ADA. 

There was a public hue and cry immediately after Target Center reopened in 2018. A civil rights complaint was filed with the City, calls, letters, and meetings followed. City officials and the Timberwolves agreed to allow disabled season ticketholders to enter seats from ground level. The agreement worked well for two Lynx seasons but was never implemented for Timberwolves games or for single-game seat purchasers. 
After the two-year Covid interruption the Timberwolves/Lynx are pretending the agreement never happened. The Minneapolis Civil Rights Departments says it has no documentation of the 2018 outcry and agreement. 

Why not? 

If you’re tired of being stuck off in a corner because you or your companion can’t climb stairs or stand and walk call/email Minneapolis City Council members and Civil Rights department staff at 311 and press the point. That treatment of disabled people is illegal, and they must stop it now for anyone who attends any game, season ticketholder or single game ticketholder. Period. 

Call U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and your U. S. Congress member as well. The ADA is federal law, and the City of Minneapolis breaks it at every Target Center basketball game. 

Barbra Metzger is a Twin Cities disability rights advocate and sports fan. 

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