I’ve never had a bad experience at PNC Park.
But then, I’ve never attended a ballgame with someone in a wheelchair.
The World’s Coolest Mother-In-Law arrived in town Friday night for a visit, the centerpiece of which was attendance at Saturday night’s baseball game. The really big deal about this? Taking Mrs. Crappy’s 96-year-old grandmother to PNC Park for the night. She’s the biggest Pirates fan I know, but she had been to the new ballpark only once before; this time, she was going with her two daughters, three of her grandchildren (if you include me) and two of her great-grandkids.
Maw is still mobile, but at 96 the time she can spend on her feet is very limited. She got herself a nice, easy to manage wheelchair a few years ago, and it’s allowed her to continue doing a lot of the things she enjoys. Without it, she would largely be stuck at home and unable to participate in a lot of the things the rest of the family does. And, because my MIL bought us eight seats in one of the wheelchair sections on the first level of the park, it meant she should have been able to enjoy Saturday’s game with us with no trouble.
The first hint of trouble came when we got inside. I knew we’d have to go up from the gate to get to our seats, and I knew there were elevators in the building. The problem? No one who works at PNC Park seemed to know 1) where the elevators are or 2) whether they’d get us where we needed to be. I asked three people and got vague directions — none of which were close to being accurate — to the “closest” elevator. And when we got to the left field rotunda — where you have nowhere to go but up — I was told by a supervisor that the elevator wouldn’t take us to where we needed to go, and we had no option but push Maw and her chair up the ramp.
This problem became more evident after the game, when we found out exactly how easy it should be. Right behind our section was an elevator, hidden behind a door. That took us directly to a General Robinson Street entrance WE COULD HAVE USED WHEN WE ARRIVED, instead of wheeling Maw around half the ballpark. Two things: 1) Ushers and other PNC Park employees should know where the elevators are and where they go. 2) The elevators could be more visible.
The second problem turned out to be a mistake, but for a while it was no less irritating. We arrived at our section, and were told by the usher that while Maw had the right ticket for the wheelchair box, the rest of us had sets on the opposite side of the section, meaning she would have been sitting there, by herself, to watch the game. The guy didn’t want to hear that my MIL had purchased eight tix for the box; he insisted we were all sitting somewhere else, and added that because Saturday’s game was a sellout, there was nothing he could do for us.
I bitched enough that he finally called a supervisor, who figured out the usher had mis-read our tickets and we were in fact where we were supposed to be. To their credit — things were much better after that. They quickly brought the extra chairs we needed, and the usher went out of his way to keep people from standing in front of the entrance to our box. And we were able to enjoy our excellent seats for the rest of the evening.
There was a third thing, although it wasn’t the fault of the ballpark. People don’t see wheelchairs. I couldn’t count the number of times people just walked in front of us when we were wheeling Maw around or wouldn’t move when we politely asked them to. Mrs. Crappy nearly ruptured the Achilles tendon of a guy who wasn’t paying attention on the rotunda ramp and cut in front of Maw’s chair (She said he also had the nerve to bitch her out about it, even after SHE apologized). It got to the point where I had to walk in front of the chair and block so people wouldn’t cut her off.
I know everyone’s in a hurry to get to their seats, get their food, get a beer, before the game begins; Mrs. Crappy would tell you I’m just as focused as we hustle through the crowd around and inside Ohio Stadium before a football game. But I’ve never jumped in front of someone in a wheelchair because they’re moving too slow; in fact, I’ve done the blocking thing up on C Deck for people I don’t know. I just wish I was a little more surprised that we encountered as many assholes as we did Saturday night.
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That’s a lot of bitching, probably more than is warranted. We had a great night; Maw loved the game, and the rest of us had a great time with her. Now that we have a little more knowledge about how to get around in the park with her wheelchair, I’d love to go back again later this summer.