The innovative seating designed for disabled fans at the new Camden Yards stadium is a national prototype and may be copied in other major league baseball stadiums, baseball officials and advocates for the disabled say.
The seat -- an armchair that folds up and swings to a side to allow a wheelchair to be parked near regular seats -- was designed by an architect for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The prototype seat was unveiled yesterday.
At the Camden Yards ballpark, 428 of the new seats will be available. They are welcomed by disabled fans who have lobbied the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority to provide equal access for them to attend games, said Janet Marie Smith, vice president of the Orioles.
At Memorial Stadium, as well as at the SkyDome in Toronto and the new Comiskey Park in Chicago, disabled fans in wheelchairs are placed on platforms at various places in the stadium. The fans say they must watch the game isolated from relatives and friends and that sometimes in Baltimore the platforms are sold out.
Terry Savarise, a vice president for the Chicago White Sox, said yesterday he is aware of the new seats to be placed at Camden Yards. The new Comiskey Park, to open next spring, has spaces for 440 wheelchairs on all levels and at all ticket prices, he said.
"If it works there, I'll think of doing it here," Savarise said.
Fred Cowell of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, a 15,000-member group of disabled veterans in Washington, praised the concept and said he would like to see it used in other ballparks and stadiums.
"This seat is a breakthrough for us," Cowell said. "It will soon be all across the country -- just watch and see."
Kim A. Beasley, an architect with the PVA, designed the new seat and has applied for a patent. All proceeds will go to the PVA, Beasley said.
The seats will cost $297 each to build and install, said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the stadium authority. Regular seats will cost $66 to $90 each, Belgrad said.
Marian S. Vessels, director of the state Office for Handicapped Individuals, said she is excited at the prospect of being able to purchase tickets to be seated at a variety of locations throughout the new stadium.
"I wasn't able to go to a game recently because there were too many people in my party and the only option was to be carried up four flights and over many people to see the game," Vessels said.