CLEVELAND — Sunday marks the first home game for the Cleveland Browns since some fans urged the organization to change the way fans in wheelchairs leave the stadium. However, fans told News 5 on Wednesday that they’re still waiting for the organization to announce any improvements.
Almost three weeks ago, a photo from Carolyn Allen’s family began circulating on social media, highlighting the 90-minute post-game wait for some fans in wheelchairs, including her 83-year-old husband Robert.
“There’s a challenge because there is a long wait before anyone that is picking up can get into the stadium,” Carolyn Allen said at the time. “They have disabilities, handicaps, some of them are severe than others. They have to wait and they usually have to wait outside and it's for a long time.”
Compared to other stadiums, FirstEnergy Stadium is located right on the water, which results in a limited number of ways for 65,000 fans to enter and leave. On game days, the roads around the stadium are closed for extended periods of time.
Shortly after the photo began circulating on social media, the Browns released the following statement:
“We have always been committed to implementing effective ingress and egress processes for our fans, with everyone’s safety and well-being as our top priority. We recognize that there are inherent logistical challenges for all fans in attendance due to the location of our stadium and the intersection of pedestrian and vehicular patterns before and after games, particularly with more than 65,000 people leaving around the same time and the resulting traffic and wait times to be expected. Specific to guests in need of special assistance, we understand the need for other measures to help expedite arrival and departure from the stadium, including the dedicated drop-off and pick-up zones and parking in closer proximity to the stadium that remain available. While we have comprehensive plans in place for all fans, we continue to work closely with the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Division of Police to maximize the safety of everyone downtown while exploring every avenue to create the best experience possible and making improvements on a weekly basis.”
Since then, Allen told News 5 she’s heard very little from the organization.
“They did reach out and ask how we’re doing through their customer service people and that was pleasant, but they weren't able to discuss changes of any kind with us,” she said. “Hopefully they make it more comfortable for everybody.”
For this upcoming game against the Cardinals, Allen said she’ll be waiting on Marginal Road for an hour and a half to pick up her husband and her son. It’s an issue she says only gets worse as the season goes on.
“I don’t think it would take long to set up a temporary heated tent,” she said. “If they can’t change the traffic patterns so people can’t get in until people get out, I understand that. There should be a warm comfortable place so people don’t need to be out in the cold.”
A day after our report aired, a Browns spokesman released the following statement:
- We have had several beneficial conversations with our gameday partners, as well as other internal and external groups over the past few weeks, to make adjustments and enhancements to the comprehensive plan previously in place.
- We continue to encourage fans in need of individual pick-up or drop-off assistance to contact our guest services team prior to gameday.
- We have always been committed to implementing effective ingress and egress processes for all fans, with everyone’s safety and well-being as our top priority.
- As shared, we continue to work closely with the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Division of Police to maximize the safety of everyone downtown while exploring every avenue to create the best experience possible and making improvements on a weekly basis.
Note: FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns, prioritizes the enjoyment of all guests. The stadium provides elevators, escalators, accessible seating, accessible and family restrooms, assistive listening (captioning) devices, signage and a variety of amenities that will allow for a positive gameday experience. Accessible seating is located on all levels of FirstEnergy Stadium. Fans are also encouraged to notify the Browns guest services or stadium operations personnel of needed assistance prior to the game to help provide a more seamless drop-off or pick-up experience during peak hours.
Kickoff for the Browns is set for 4 p.m. Sunday.