How do you separate a field from its teams or its fans? We went to CenturyLink Field to see Major League Soccer—the Seattle Sounders’ opening game. We were quickly swept up by what seemed to be a magical combination of people and events–by the beautiful feet and minds of Dempsey and Martins; by the fans’ surround-sound singing and ritualized scarf waving; and by strangers, standing for the whole of the game, high-fiving us when we scored.
People working at the field offered help, asked if we were having a good time, and told us to be sure to come back. Even the traffic jam getting into the field was exciting because we were stopped right in front of the fans’ March to the Match and the Sound Wave’s boisterous marching band.
And we won the game!—3-zip, a win complete with a Martins’ flip and a set-up and pass so beautiful it made you cry. This is not a game for the ironic; you have to be full-out in love. You have to wear your heart loudly on your blue and green jacket.
In the face of all that joy and energy, paying attention to inclines and doorways can get a little lost, but there was really not much to notice. CenturyLink Field is fully accessible for soccer fans in wheelchairs—and football fans, as well. The field’s website provides information about services for disabled fans, so check the site out: http://www.centurylinkfield.com/stadium-guide/#disabled.
Parking: Although disabled fans with season passes get the first claim on disabled parking spots, “limited disabled parking in the North Lot may be available on day of game and will be sold on a first come, first serve basis“—according to the disabled services website. We had no problem parking in the North Lot, and there were many many handicapped spaces available after we got there. You will want to get there early, though, and, even though early, expect to be held up by traffic and fans. The trip from the parking lot to the entry way is ramped and somewhat uphill.
Entrances and getting around: Fans’ bags are searched and fans are wanded at the entry way, so there are lines at each gate. Wheelchair travelers are patted down at an adjacent wider entry and directed to a door into the bottom level of the field that houses a couple of elevators. People who are handicapped have priority on the elevators, so we don’t have to wait long. The elevator takes you up to your seating level, and it’s a flat, wide ride from there to your seats. We did not wheel around the entire stadium, but we did take a little jaunt to the family style/handicapped bathrooms, and even though fans were mingling and lined up at food venues, it was spacious. Moving around was no problem at all.
Seating: We sat in section 103, right next to where the Sound Wave plays. It was great. The spaces were wide, and there were enough stationary seats, as well as a moveable chair, for more than one companion. We had a great view of the field, and getting to and from the seats was a breeze.
Restrooms: Restrooms are plentiful and all have accessible stalls, but these stalls are located a bit far from the door. A better bet are the family/handicapped restrooms that allow you to bring in a helper. These restrooms include grab bars around the toilet and high-enough seats. The toilet paper reach requires bending but is no problem with a little planning ahead. Best of all, these rooms have attendants who give priority to people changing babies and to those of us with mobility challenges. The restroom we used did have a small water-on-the-floor problem right where I park my cane, but keeping the bathroom floor dry seems to be a bit of a challenge nearly everywhere.
Photos of interior space online: Yes, on Google Images, but most of them are of the field, games, and fans.
Photos of entrances online: No.
Reservations taken: You can call and talk to a human about seating, purchase tickets, and arrange to pick them up at the ticket office at the field. If you call them, tell them Spoken Wheel highly recommended them!
What the wheelchair pusher has to say: As you would expect in a stadium that large, the distances you have to traverse are a bit long, but everything is flat. All the staff and every single person attending were really nice; they go out of their way to help you. The elevator operators were full of jokes, and the bathroom attendant told us about her perfect nine-year old granddaughter. If you have some doubts about humanity, just go to a Sounders game.
If you can, get seats close to section 118, where a family/ handicapped bathroom is located. Having attendants at the bathroom was very helpful; they only let people in who needed that facility. A word of warning that applies to every bathroom everywhere: people servicing the bathrooms should leave the area with dry floors. Having a wet floor, being uncertain on your feet, and using a cane is a very terrifying combination, and we have run into the wet-floor problem at many venues.
All in all, I would give CenturyLink field my top rating of F and E: flat and easy!