Minnesota’s lone independent professional baseball team, the St. Paul Saints, has played at Midway Stadium near the State Fair since 1993. This small-town ballpark sported some quirky features, like restrooms were mainly porta-potties and sometimes the Saints let fans sit on the outfield warning track during games. Fans will miss the trains that roll by just beyond left field and watching firefighters train just over the right field wall on an old building. But Midway Stadium was missing something big: sufficient accessibility. The new Lowertown Ballpark, which will open next year, will definitely be an improvement for fans with disabilities.
Yes, Midway Stadium had the basic ADA features: wheelchair sections and access ramps. But the St. Paul Saints have promised greatly improved accessibility features in their new ballpark. In fact earlier this year, St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a story on several fans who approved the Lowertown Ballpark accessibility plans.
The new field will exceed federal ADA standards for ballparks this size. The ballpark will feature 140 handicap seats and four elevators. In addition, the Saints will use padded folding chairs for more flexible combinations (for example, if two or more friends in wheelchairs want to attend a game together). The Lowertown Ballpark will also have ADA entrances, 10 single-occupant restrooms, a drop-off/pick-up area, braille and color contrasted signage for fans with visual impairments, and signage identifying accessible routes.
Also the stadium will have 180 semi-ambulant seats, which provide more leg room than normal seats and will be on the concourse level. Lastly, the stadium will have a 360-degree accessible concourse that will provide various viewpoints of the playing field. For more information about the accessible features of the new Saints stadium, please click here.
Personally, I love what the Twin Cities is doing with making all the new stadiums and their surrounding areas more accessible for all, but especially people with physical disabilities. For example, I just learned this week that plans are in the works to build a pedestrian bridge that goes across the light rail tracks near the new Vikings stadium to safely allow fans to cross, with elevators on each end. Across town at the Target Field light rail station, the Twins and Minneapolis did an outstanding job on accessibility.
But back to the Lowertown Ballpark: the Saints and St. Paul did their due diligence in making their new ballpark more accessible than other independent baseball parks. Here’s to hoping that Minneapolis and St. Paul become known as one of the most disability-friendly spots in the country. We are well on our way!
Written by: Michael L. Sack