This could end up being a model for other ballparks: The summer-collegiate Northwoods League today announced plans to build an Interactive Accessible Seating Area at Witter Field, home of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, for the 2014 season pending city approval.
A concrete patio will be connected to the existing grandstand on the first-base side to serve as the new Interactive Accessible Seating Area. The platform will be level with the existing walkway on the first-base side of the stadium for easy access from the main grandstand. Also included will be an ADA compliant ramp with a landing pad that will wrap alongside and behind the existing grandstand. It's not a done deal: the inprovements received a favorable recommendation from the City’s Finance and Property Committee and the project will now go to the full Council for approval on April 15.
The addition of this new space is being made possible by the Northwoods League Foundation, which will provide funding for the project. The Northwoods League Foundation is a charitable organization whose mission is to utilize the game of baseball to enrich the quality of life for children and families with an enduring and caring focus on Northwoods League communities.
“The Northwoods League Foundation and its Board of Directors are pleased to be a part of this ground-breaking venue for the physically impaired,” said President Dick Radatz, Jr. “We hope it is a preview of what can be accomplished in our venues and beyond.”
To make this one of the most unique venues in all of sports, the following amenities will be available in this area to accommodate people with varying disabilities and allow them to enjoy the game:
- Room for 16 handicap accessible spaces or companion seats.
- iPads for ordering concessions and viewing the Northwoods League webcast at the touch of a built-in link on the device.
- Each device would be protected with a weather proof cover.
- Wait service would be provided on a nightly basis.
- Complimentary head-phones would be available in the area that would plug into each iPad and sync with the live broadcast for the hearing impaired.
- Drink rail for the iPad and concessions items.
- Installation of a high-visibility net that will protect both fans in the new area and fans in the River-view Family Clinic Fan Zone.
The goal, according to Northwoods League officials, is to outfit every league ballpark with a similar seating area.
“I want to thank the Northwoods League Foundation for their support on this addition to Witter Field,” said Rafters general manager John Fanta. “This will be one of the most accommodating venues for the physically impaired in all of sports and we are fortunate to provide this opportunity in Wisconsin Rapids.”
Witter Field, which was built in 1949, has less than ideal handicap accessible seating in its current configuration. Some of the issues include:
- The existing ramp has been grandfathered in; however, it runs too long without a flat, landing space and is too steep to meet modern code requirements.
- The existing accessible seating area is in front of the first row of seating on the first base side of the ballpark.
- All sight lines in the area are obstructed due to the fact that the seating area is at the same level and behind the main walkway of the stadium.
- Current companion seats are either in bleacher seats behind the accessible seating or folding chairs placed next to the wheelchair locations.
- The current configuration is a deterrent to handicapped fans attending games and creates conges-tion in the walkway which hinders the overall ballpark experience.
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