Caught in the Rain? Maybe Don't Seek Shelter at Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park, not during a downpour.
Minute Maid Park, not during a downpour. Marco Torres
A group of Houston Astros fans, including a Houston woman confined to a wheelchair, waited to enter Minute Maid Park for nearly two hours on Saturday as heavy downpours covered the city.

Polly Ensminger, a frequent attendee of Astros games and a friend of Sara Domson, a paraplegic, said she considered the incident as another example of the “unfair” treatment of her and her group at Astros games this season and reached out to the Houston Press.

Ensminger said her group of ticket holders, including Domson, and about 800 other attendees were stranded outside the center field gate at the park for an hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. game. Ensminger arrived early to be one of the first 10,000 fans to receive complimentary bobblehead dolls. She said fans at the gate stood and watched as the people at other gates were allowed to enter.

Minute Maid Park typically opens about two hours prior to first pitch, but the park decided to allow fans to enter early when thunderstorms appeared above downtown Houston.

“We were trying to keep our fans and our employees as safe as possible and our intention was to try and give fans an opportunity to get under cover and get dry,” said Anita Sehgal, senior vice president of marketing and communications with the Astros. “Our center field gate was the most challenging to get open. We absolutely did our best to get as many fans in the building as fast as possible.”

Ensminger, though, claimed it’s another example of careless actions by the staff at Minute Maid, who she said have been unresponsive to past complaints. Ensminger reached out to the Houston Press after an email she sent to a representative with the Astros went unanswered.

“We don’t make a point to advertise our limitations, but we do expect a bit of professional decorum when coming in and out of the ballpark,“ Ensminger wrote in an email to Vivian Mora, the Astros Vice President of Human Resources, that was shared with the Houston Press.

Sehgal stressed that Minute Maid Park employees are trained using the American Disabilities Act and that the park itself meets all standards designated by the federal law. Stadiums today must include wheelchair-accessible walkways and entrances, wheelchair spaces in place of standard seating with accompanying seats, concessions with lowered counters for accessing cash registers and assistive listening systems and visual alarms for the hearing-impaired. Repeated noncompliance with ADA regulations can result in fines of up to $150,000.
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Joseph Fanelli is a reporting fellow at the Houston Press with an interest in education, crime and eccentric people everywhere.