Everyone entitled to enjoy football in Brookfield

Some would call it an unfunded mandate, but the truth is, if the Brookfield football stadium is a public facility, it must be equally accessible to all the public, regardless of disabilities.

After receiving word recently from the federal Office of Civil Rights that the stadium on Addison Road was out of compliance with handicap regulations, the board of education was given this order: Fix it or stop using it. The ruling came after the office received a complaint about a year ago that the stadium was not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

The stadium must have proper restrooms and nine designated parking spots, along with 16 home seats and eight visitor seats able to accommodate those with needs. Signage and clear pathways also must be added.

Two public hearings followed last week in which dozens of members of the community came together to discuss the best way to handle the upgrades which would come with a hefty price tag – one the school district argued was not feasible.

Some residents who turned out were more frustrated with the ruling or the fact that high school football home games were being threatened than they were with the fact that the stadium had no accessibility to their disabled neighbors. There also is no handicap parking at the stadium that is more than 60 years old and that was last improved in the 1980s.

It’s unfortunate it’s gotten to this point, but the fact is, everyone should be able to enjoy a high school football game if they want, regardless of their physical capacity.

To the credit of the community and school officials, however, they now have come together to offer a solution that seems both fair and logical.

Under the plan, volunteers will disassemble the home-side bleachers that will be retrofitted to the visitor side, making them handicap accessible. The original home side will become standing-room only. Paved paths will be added for wheelchair use. The goal is to have it ready by the first football game at the end of August.

Thanks to the quick and generous response from the Cafaro Foundation, $50,000 already has been donated that should cover all or most of the paving cost.

Cafaro said they hope that donation encourages others in the community to do the same. Those funds would likely be used to add more paved areas and new home-stand bleachers or an entire new stadium in the future.

For now, though, let’s hope that volunteers turn out to help on this massive undertaking. Remember, it’s not just for the good of the football fans. It’s for the good of all – including those who aren’t as physically capable as the rest.

editorial@tribtoday.com