Investors Group Field disappoints wheelchair athlete
Paralympian Colin Mathieson says accessible seating offers less choice, higher price
A Winnipeg-based Paralympic athlete and Blue Bombers fan missed the team's inaugural game at Investors Group Field because of what he says is discrimination when it comes to wheelchair-friendly seating.
Colin Mathieson, who most recently competed in last year's Paralympic Games in London, said he had hoped to see the Bombers play the Toronto Argonauts in Wednesday evening's pre-season game.
The game was the first to be held at the new facility, which replaced the aging Canad Inns Stadium as the Bombers' home.
"I was happy to hear there that was going to be a new [stadium] because based on my understanding, you know, it would be brought up to 2013 building codes, so any problems that they had experienced as far as accessibility at the old one would be non-existent," he told CBC News late Thursday.
But Mathieson, a longtime fan of the Winnipeg CFL team, said he was shocked when he learned all the accessible seats at Investors Group Field are clustered in certain corners, giving him a limited range of choices.
"You don't get to necessarily pick the part of the stadium you want to sit in," he said.
"If I wanted to sit in the family section, it would be unavailable. And if I brought my family and I wanted to go in the alcohol-free zone, I wouldn't necessarily have access to that either."
He was also outraged to learn the stadium's accessible seats are more expensive, and it's around $13 more than the cheapest seats overall.
According to the Bombers, the lowest-priced seats in the wheelchair-accessible category cost around $35, while the cheapest seats are about $22.
By contrast, the MTS Centre and other facilities offer accessible seats in a variety of sections and price points.
"It's not financially prohibitive but … it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I don't really want to participate in that type of behaviour," Mathieson said.
The Blue Bombers responded in a statement on Friday, saying, "Investors Group Field is far superior given that it was primarily constructed in 2012 and 2013 and not 50 years ago. Like any other seats, ticket prices are based on location. Investors Group Field was designed and built to current codes and standards."
The statement continues, "We have accessible seating in 12 sections of the 100 level and 6 sections in the 200 level. For fans attending games in the suites or on the 200 level, there are two accessible options for them including elevators and switch back interior ramps located in each of the four corners of the stadium."
But Mathieson still says he's disappointed that Investors Group Field, a state-of-the-art facility, appears to be so poorly planned for fans who use wheelchairs.
"I'm not entirely sure I even want to come and come watch a game anymore," he said.
Fan with disabilities not happy
Another fan was disappointed with the way Bombers handled seating for people with disabilities.
David Leitch, 22, has spina bifida and relies on his wheelchair. For the past five years, Leitch has attended almost every Bombers game and practice.
He was even invited to take photos of the team during their practices.
"It meant a lot to me -- gave me something to do," said Leitch. "[To have] people who believed in me, supported me -- it was something I never had before."
Since the team moved into the new stadium, Leitch said, he was told he can’t sit on the sidelines for practices because it’s not safe.
"I’ve always been safe. I know how to get out of the way. No one’s going to hit me," he said. He said the seating designated for people with disabilities isn’t up to snuff either.
"You’re bunched in. It’s like a prison cell. You’re watching the game through bars," said Leitch.
Leitch said he wants a refund for his tickets.
"It’s am obstructed view. If I only get to see half the game, then maybe give me half my money back."
The Bombers tell CBC they are aware of concerns over obstructed views and are reviewing them.