Premium seats at MTS Centre block view for Winnipeg fans in wheelchairs
Season ticket holder frustrated by lack of response from True North on obstructed view of ice
Accessible seating for people who use mobility devices is limited at the MTS Centre, and for one group of Winnipeg Jets season ticket holders, a good view is even harder to come by.
"We have blockage with the people in front of us," said Jared Funk, who sits with a group of wheelchair users directly behind the newly-added premium loge seats in the upper bowl.
"We lose about one-quarter of the ice rink. If I wanted to watch it on TV, I'd watch it on TV. I don't want to watch a big screen."
Funk is a sports guy, and a celebrated one, as a three-time paralympic athlete in the sport of wheelchair rugby. He's a Winnipeg Jets season ticket holder and a supporter of the Manitoba Moose. He just wants to watch the game, but it is more difficult this season.
The arena added 278 loge seats in the 300 section at the beginning of the 2015/2016 season. It caused a slew of complaints, with hundreds of Jets fans in the upper bowl complaining about the new structure that came with those seats. The addition of steel and glass was obstructing their view.
In October, True North Sports and Entertainment acknowledged the poor sightlines that were created with the construction of the loge seating. It responded to those complaints by raising 6,500 seats in the upper bowl by 2½ inches.
True North claimed that this improved the sightlines of all 300-level patrons, but Funk says that the improvements were only applied to the seats behind his section. The height of the accessible seating area remains unchanged.
"Their response has been, 'We can buy you out of your contract,'" Funk said.
But Funk doesn't want compensation. Accessible seating is a feature required by the arena's building code and he wants to see that requirement put into place more effectively.
"Like everything here, [people with disabilities] need a voice and we need people to take us seriously. I know we're just a small demographic, but we're a demographic that has rules that get broken."
Kevin Donnelly, True North's senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, Donnelly doesn't look at Funk's complaint as an accessibility issue.
"The building has received awards for its barrier-free design, and so the fact that this is being brought up as an accessibility issue is incorrect. It's a patron that's not happy with their seating, and we're trying to deal with it on that level," said Donnelly.