On Sunday, players and fans seemed to go home happy after another Browns win. However, some disabled fans and their families tell us they had to wait up to two hours before they could try to go home.
They explained that they have to wait in an area set aside for them to be picked up, but loved ones can’t get to them since streets near the stadium are closed until most fans clear out.
Jim Vourliotis walks with the help of a cane.
“So, I sat out there for two hours and everybody else in wheelchairs too,” he said.
Carolyn Allen waited with her husband who uses a wheelchair. She says they’re season ticket holders and they love the team, but their daughter made them realize the waiting time for folks in wheelchairs is too long.
“My daughter waited on Marginal Road for an hour and a half trying to get in and pick us up,” Allen said. “The long waiting period causes frustration and stress.”
Vourliotis says he’s been a season ticket holder since 1989. Again, he didn’t like having to wait so long for someone to pick him up.
The I-Team noticed a suggestion on a First Energy Stadium website for folks with disabilities to consider getting picked up before the fourth quarter.
However, Vourliotis says there’s no way he’s leaving early.
“I’m gonna leave an hour before the game is over? That could be the best part of the game,” he said.
So, what about fans with disabilities leaving the stadium and getting caught in gridlock? The I-Team reached out to Cleveland Police and the Browns. What can be done about this? Is it even being discussed?
The Cleveland Police referred us to the Browns. The team released the following statement, telling us the Browns will look for ways to do something about the delays for the disabled:
“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.”
The fans we met are hoping for some change, especially as the weather gets colder.
“There’s no doubt there’s room for improvement,” Allen said.
Meanwhile, the Browns don’t want any fans feeling they have to leave early. The team says fans with specific concerns about drop-off and pick-up for people with disabilities should contact the team’s guest services.