When “take me out to the ball game” includes using a wheelchair, it can seem like more trouble than it’s worth to go. You might think it best to stay home and not attempt such an outing when you or someone you’re with uses a wheelchair or has another disability. But for a Twins baseball game you should reconsider. If literally rolling out a red carpet would make handicapped visitors to Target Field feel more comfortable the Twins would have one at every entrance. Even the ticket windows have amplified speakers so fans who are hard of hearing can catch what the person in the ticket booth says.
As far as providing accessibility goes, “the Twins are a very good organization,” says Bruce Miller, AIA, a principal architect of Populous, the firm that designed Target Field. “We wanted to make sure wheelchair users have the same choices as non-wheelchair users. It goes back to the history of our firm. We’d always provided accommodations. We stay abreast of the rulings of ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]. Our firm was on board for access.”
Commitment to Accessibility
The commitment to making a space that is comfortable and easy to navigate is obvious to anyone with a wheelchair who visits the park. Two drop-off sites are available, on North 7th St. at the home plate entrance and the right field entrance. The drop offs are easy to use and don’t require a handicap permit on the vehicle. The vehicle can be left in the spot while getting the person inside the gate. It can be uncomfortable leaving someone alone while you park the car. So, you might want to plan to go with someone who can stay with the wheelchair (and the person who’s in it) while the other person parks.
Another option is to park adjacent to the field in ramps A or B, which have ample handicapped spaces. Miller notes that the Twins “reconfigured the parking ramp to include more spaces for [handicap] vans.” Ramp A has a skyway connected to the stadium. The grade in the skyway takes a little extra power to get up. The ground entrances have a less steep grade.
The ramps within the park also have a gentler slope, and getting around inside is a snap. Even during crowded games there is plenty of space to maneuver in the wide concourses. Seating for wheelchairs and companions is abundant and varied. “They’re good about trying to mix groups of people who are ambulatory and non-ambulatory so everybody can sit together,” Miller says of the goals for handicap seating.
Comfortable Seating Options
Accessible seating is available on the main, club, mezzanine and terrace levels. The Field Box section (overlooking right field) is close to the right field drop-off entrance and is under an overhang, so you can still enjoy the sun but be shielded from the rain. The box sections are on the main level at left and right field and over home plate, and all have an overhang. The grandstand and overlook sections are near the entrance too, but are out in the open. Club seating is for season ticket holders and has indoor and outdoor wheelchair seating, as do all event suites.
In designing the stadium Miller points out, “We wanted to make sure we had all needs covered and still have a beautiful building. We had meetings with accessibility advocacy groups. We listened.” Because of their input, amenities include power outlets near accessible seating so people can recharge their power wheelchairs, elevators near every gate, accessibility at all concession stands and in-stadium restaurants, single-user restrooms, and listening devices. The guest services staff members make themselves available throughout the park and at the guest service centers. Free wheelchairs are on loan there to use within the park, as well as assistive listening devices. For their efforts they won the Access Award from the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities.
Helpful Guest Services
Shannon Potts, CTRS, therapeutic recreation coordinator for Walker Methodist Health Care, regularly takes residents to Twins games. When asked about getting into and out of games she said, “It’s been really good. The [Target Field] staff is willing to help. They’ll help push residents around from the entrance gate to our seats.”
Target Field is the only outdoor ball park that has conditioned space set aside for any ticket holder to get out of the elements. This club and suite hallway includes a museum-type historical display called “The Story of Target Field.”
A Vertical Endeavor
Most ball parks have acres and acres of land at their disposal. But Target Field was squeezed into a tiny 8-acre site, surrounded by rail lines, freeways, entrance ramps and a busy downtown. Because of this the architects had to think vertically. Miller points out, “Not all seats are at the same level. They’re tiered.” This terrace-effect makes it so that even in the cheap seats you feel close to the action on the diamond.
“Nothing in this stadium was left to chance,” reports tour guide, Bob Lundegaard, a former Star Tribune writer. “The Pohlad family [owners of the Twins franchise] planned for the fans’ comfort and continues to upgrade whatever will add to the fans’ enjoyment,” he adds.
Driving – If you are driving plan to get to the area about an hour before the game, since the downtown streets get congested and the handicap parking spaces are popular. If you go in a wheelchair you will find that you have plenty of company. The accessibility accommodations are not going to waste and are being used by lots of fans and their companions.
Public Transportation – The Northstar Line rail service stops in Big Lake, Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley and arrives at Target Field about an hour before most home games. The Big Lake departure is about an hour before the Target Field arrival, with the other four stops in between. The last return trip starts one half hour after the last out. The Northstar Line phone number is 612-373-3333; TTY for the deaf and hearing impaired is 612-341-0140.
The Metro Transit, which includes the Northstar Line website (http://www.metrotransit.org/take-northstar-to-target-field.aspx) states: Every bus has a wheelchair lift or ramp, and drivers are trained to help customers secure their wheelchairs safely. Customers with disabilities should board first and exit last.
Light-rail trains offer step-free boarding, and are equipped with designated sections for customers using wheelchairs. In addition, all station platforms are fully accessible.
Northstar stations have ramps that allow easier boarding for customers using wheelchairs. Since there is a gap between the platform and the train, the conductor will assist you in boarding.
Northstar Link bus service connects to Saint Cloud and Becker (phone: 1-877-LINK-010; 1-877-546-5010). Their website (www.catchthelink.com) states: All station platforms will include ramps to provide easy access for people in wheelchairs, passengers with strollers or to accommodate other needs. Northstar buses and trains will be equipped with wheelchair lifts and designated seating for people with disabilities or elderly passengers.