By Madison Pelletier
As construction on Globe Life Field continues to progress toward a March 2020 opening date, design plans are being finalized. That includes designing a ballpark that is accessible for all fans.
Established in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) created standards that prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Going above and beyond the ADA standards is the dedication of the Globe Life Field ADA Advisory Board.
"[Globe Life Field] has to meet the law, but I would be happy if they have taken some steps to go above and beyond and that they embrace, not just the letter of the law, but the whole spirit of the law, which I think we're absolutely on track to do," Accessology President and CEO Kristi Avalos said.
McKinney based Accessology is a consulting firm dedicated to solving access issues, not solely focused on ADA, but several other access related laws as well.
"I always try to draw the line between what they have to do [to follow the law] and what would be above and beyond," Avalos said.
Avalos works alongside over a dozen committee members to form the Globe Life Field ADA advisory committee, all working to ensure the new ballpark goes beyond the law, and is accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
The advisory board is composed of members from diverse facets of the community, including representatives from the American Foundation for the Blind, Paralyzed Veterans of America and a former Fort Worth Police Officer, Lisa Ramsey, who became paraplegic in the line of duty.
"I always try to get people with a variety of different mobility impairments. Somebody in a manual wheelchair, versus somebody in a power wheelchair. They have different needs and different experiences when they try to go to events," Avalos said.
Going above and beyond is a priority for both the Rangers and the HKS architect team. They meet with the advisory board to discuss issues that the board has experienced personally, and brainstorm ideas that have been beneficial in other venues.
"We look at this committee as a tremendous benefit. We want to embrace their ideas and we want to be able to hear from a lot of our fans that have different types of disabilities," Senior Vice President of Project Development Jack Hill said. "We look at all the ideas and then collectively decide which ones we should pursue."
Hill sits down with the architects following each meeting to discuss the feasibility of each suggestion, implementing the ideas that will benefit the group overall.
"You can't solve every problem, or implement every suggestion, but out of it you get those gems that make you go 'hey, we can do this better'," Avalos added.
Ideas range from suggestions on door accessibility to pet relief stations. Hill recalls changing ramp access and parking accommodations on previous projects.
"You can really just go across all the different projects and think of things that we've done to make it easier, in particular, for the disabled community," Hill said.
At this point in the project the group meets quarterly, though the meetings are expected to become more frequent as the project progresses. Collaborating among people with different backgrounds is just one aspect that makes this committee unique.
"When you involve people who live in a world that you and I don't understand, they have great information, and they have great suggestions," Avalos said.
There isn't an industry advisory committee requirement, but Hill has implemented the ADA advisory board into past projects he has been part of, including neighboring AT&T Stadium.
"I've used some of the same people in other projects and they always have a great perspective," Hill said. "We know what's black and white, what the law is and what the law says, but the group brings a much greater perspective than what's written down in the law."
One of the early suggestions for Globe Life Field was to insure similar layouts of all restrooms, with men's and women's on coordinating sides, to help the blind with access.
"We always think that if there are a couple of good ideas that we can implement, then we're better off. We want to continue in the same spirit with this project as well," Hill said.
A suggestion to include pet relief stations was incorporated into the design of Dallas' American Airlines Center, a project that both Hill and Avalos worked together on as well.
"It's a little bit early to say yes this has happened, or no this hasn't happened, but I can say that HKS has been very open to working on this committee and we expect that there will be a lot of really good things," Avalos said.
In the next 18 months of construction before Globe Life Field opens its doors for the first time several suggestions will be made by the committee and several issues will be worked through to make sure that the disabled community is served in an outstanding capacity.
"The [people on the committee] put their heart and soul into helping [Globe Life Field] become more accessible…I want some positive interaction so it can be a model, if you communicate with your local disabled population, you learn things about their needs that are not expensive, that you can put into design, and that make the experience for everybody as good as it can be," Avalos said.