BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — During a CBS 42 investigation in July, we learned that Legion Field is not consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act for its handrails. Since our report, Birmingham Park and Recreation has now responded.
It all started when Bobby Pierson contacted the Your Voice Your Station hotline to report his concern about the lack of support getting up and down the steps at Legion Field. He attends the Magic City Classic annually and said it’s been harder to get to his seats because of this, especially as he ages.
In July, we reported the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design says handrails must run the entire length of stairs, but we have not been able to find a place where that occurs beyond the first few rows of some sections at Legion Field. Alabama adopted the 2010 standards in 2011.
“I thought they would do so when the World Games came to town, but nothing happened,” Pierson said last month. “It’s frightening to me.”
Birmingham Park and Recreation Director Shonae Eddins-Bennett said over the years the department has made upgrades to the stadium as funding has been available. For instance, in the south endzone you’ll find a ramp that leads up to a section that sits higher off the ground for handicapped accessibility.
“As long as they have the credentials to get into the stadium, we will assist them,” Eddins-Bennett said. “If you don’t tell us, we don’t know. There are also other places in the stadium that are lower seating, you just have to get online and get those sooner. We are here to assist and serve in the condition that [the stadium] is in now.”
Eddins-Bennett said Park and Recreation needs at least 30 days of advance notice if you need someone to assist you to your seats the day of an event.
Earlier this year, Birmingham City Council approved $4 million to renovate the restrooms, add a new roof over the northeast end zone and replace some of the cameras on the north decks.
“As budget permits we do submit that with our budget requests,” Eddins-Bennett said. “As we get funding, we do something different with the stadium.”
Eddins-Bennet acknowledged that the lack of handrails is a safety concern. She said they did look into the estimated amount a full-handrail installation would cost in 2019, which was roughly $750,000. The plans were put on hold due to lack of funding.
“It’s not that we went to sleep on it,” Eddins-Bennett said. “We’ll go back out and we will re-evaluate it again and see what we come up with.”
We asked if she is worried people might sue the city for getting hurt trying to go to their seats.
“I wouldn’t answer that but we’re going to work on seeing what the quote would look like to get into the stadium,” Eddins-Bennett said.
We followed up asking if she was concerned anyone would come after the city.
“People do, it’s their choice,” Eddins-Bennett. “I hope they don’t.”
There is no local authority to enforce accessibility concerns, but anyone with a disability could file a complaint with the Department of Justice or a lawsuit due to injury. If you need assistance getting to your seats at Legion Field contact Stadium Manager Linus Mbanugo at 205-254-2391.
Birmingham Park and Recreation is continuing its efforts to have the stadium recognized as a historic landmark.