SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Fair Association met with Sheridan WYO Rodeo board members and members of the community to discuss options to expand seating at the fairgrounds for those in wheelchairs and their families.
Ben Reeves of Arete Design Group assessed the fairgrounds, with an emphasis on the main grandstand, and presented options during the SCFA board meeting Thursday.
“Frankly, the grandstand wasn’t designed for today’s standard,” Reeves said.
For the grandstands to be up to code, 31 wheelchair seats need to be available. The grandstands currently have 14 in the northeast corner.
While the facility is not up to code, the main issue is during the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, when wheelchair patrons are allowed one ticket plus one guest ticket, often causing family members to sit apart from each other.
Multiple entities, including SCFA and Sheridan County, have been working toward expanding wheelchair access for more than a year.
According to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the grandstands must allow for functional, accessible seating; provide seating options in all types or areas available (for example if a venue has both grandstand and box seats, it must have available wheelchair options in both); provide flexible companion seating; and provide a city of Sheridan building department-approved pathway from the parking lot to seating areas.
One recommendation to address the seating issue is to extend the ledge on the lower seating area in the northeast corner of the main grandstand by 12 inches and remove and shorten the guardrail to allow for better line of sight. The extension can be done by either extending the concrete floor or by installing a strip of plate steel.
The option will allow six wheelchair spaces with one companion seat each and three additional companion seats.
Another option is to remove two seats width on each side of the banks of 20 seats with 72 inches removed at the center of the bench. This will provide one wheelchair space at each end and two in the center.
The seats on the benches can then be used by up to five companions of wheelchair patrons.
The fairgrounds don’t just need to meet physical requirements, though, there also needs to be a procedure in place to ensure these ticket options are available. Companion seats need to be explained to the purchaser either in person, over the phone or during the online ticket sale.
These options address the first three requirements, providing enough seating, representative seating options and flexible companion seating.
Reeves met with city of Sheridan building official Kevin Bare last August to examine options for a pathway from parking to the grandstands.
Options for the pathway include a paved area in the parking lot with a sidewalk that leads to the grandstands ramp.
Reeves recommended a site analysis be done to determine exactly how many handicap parking spaces are needed and the best location.
“I’d rather have too much than not enough,” Sheridan WYO Rodeo board President Nick Siddle said.
Gretchen Danforth has been trying to instigate progress on the problem for more 10 years. After her husband’s slip off a roof resulted in paraplegia, her family has had poor experiences at the fairgrounds.
The Danforths, along with Ms. Wheelchair Wyoming 2014 Chandra Hendricks, said they don’t expect the changes to be done by July; they are just happy there is something in the works.
“This is huge to have this,” Danforth said. “The idea that we can go to any event, to rodeo, as a family of three with our daughter and sit in a place where we don’t have to pay premium prices and sit like everybody else, is huge.”
The board members decided they need to conduct a work session to determine the best options. In the meantime, they said they’re exploring funding options, such as grants, for the project.