Since its opening in 1998, Raymond James Stadium, home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has ensured optimal accessibility to all of its patrons.
Adhering closely to the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the stadium, colloquially known as Ray Jay, provides all of the basics of an accessible structure, such as accessible parking and entrances, seating availability and restrooms.
“Accessibility to our stadium should be open to everyone,” says Barbara Casey, public information officer for the Tampa Sports Authority.
Several committees were established to address accessibility in the stadium’s blueprints, and Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Florida Gulf Coast Chapter participated in several sessions to provide input into the design, and after it opened, followed up to ensure standards were being followed.
But Ray Jay has made an effort to go beyond the required ADA guidelines and currently provides more than 650 seats for people with disabilities in the 65,890-seat stadium. Seating is available in all areas, including club level and luxury suites. Gurney viewing positions are available in the end zone area.
“We had meetings with our disabled community (including Paralyzed Veterans Gulf Coast Chapter),” explains Mickey Farrell, director of Stadium Operations for the Tampa Sports Authority. “We had separate meetings set up to talk about designs of the stadium and get their signoff.” Additionally, the architectural firm, HOK Sports (now known as Populous), involved in the stadium’s design had an ADA specialist on staff.
Beyond the standard accessibility features required by the ADA, the stadium boasts a transportation service to and from remote parking lots to assist the elderly or individuals with mobility impairments. Patrons simply call a provided number to arrange pickup. The stadium also provides “air-conditioned areas of refuge”—especially important for people with spinal cord injury because temperature extremes can be an issue. Also available are power stations at “several wheelchair areas” for wheelchair recharging, respirators, etc.
Ray Jay has published an “Accessibility Guide for Patrons with Disabilities,” which offers general information about the various services offered to accommodate persons with disabilities. The guide includes information about accessible parking, dropoff, entrances, seating and ticketing, restrooms, service animals, listening devices, and contact numbers. Additionally, several stadium maps indicate these various services.
The stadium’s enhanced accessibility has attracted support on the Paralyzed Veterans of America Facebook page, with one supporter commenting: “Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida – is super accessible!” Nonetheless, the stadium is endeavoring to make further improvements to the stadium’s accessibility with plans to expand the number of family assist restrooms, adding them in the club lounges and VIP areas. Additionally, a new video board to include captioning will be installed in in the 2013 off-season.
But according to Farrell, what sets Ray Jay apart from all other stadiums is the staff: “We have a general operations staff that most buildings don’t have. We try to cross-train all of our staff to be very cognizant and to (assist) any patrons who are disabled that come to the building.”
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Jeremy Diamond is an International Relations & Political Science double-major at The George Washington University.