A coalition of Colorado disability advocacy groups have filed a class action lawsuit against the city of Denver on behalf of six disabled Coloradoans claiming its renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater concert venue violates the ADA by failing to provide appropriate access and seating for patrons who use wheelchairs. The groups are Disability Law Colorado, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Dec. 1, the suit alleges that wheelchair users are limited to “all but the most distant seats” of the legendary 9,000-seat capacity outdoor concert venue located in Morrison Colorado and are denied “meaningful access” because ticketing and seating procedures “make it very difficult for such patrons to purchase tickets in the approximately one-half of the accessible seats located at the front of the amphitheater.”
Built into the natural rock formations in the Denver suburb, Red Rocks has been a popular concert and entertainment venue since 1906, boasting such famed acts as The Beatles, U2, and The Grateful Dead over its 108-year history. But because of its steep infrastructure, wheelchair concertgoers are limited to two very distinct seating options, the first row and the last.
According the claim, the city has been lenient when selling tickets by failing to prevent the non-disabled from purchasing front row seating.
“I know that’s a lot of people coming in fraudulently, buying the front row seats,” said Frank Mango, one of the six plaintiffs. “That’s one of the biggest concerns, as they have no morals or no ethics. I can go in and press this button, they’re going to let me buy the ticket, when I get to Red Rocks, they’re not going to question me whether or not I need those seats or not for disability.”
Mango has been a frequent Red Rocks concertgoer for 30 years, but seeing his favorite Monster bands perform has proven to be quite challenging after a home improvement accident left him a permanent wheelchair user three years ago.
“It’s just frustrating, because I’m a huge, monster concert fan and I’ve always been even before my accident,” he said. “Now being in a wheelchair, a lot of my passions are out of my reach. Going to a concert is one of the easy things I can do now. It should be fairly easy. It’s just frustrating that it’s almost impossible to get front row here.”
Alison Butler Daniels, who serves as director of legal services at Disability Law Colorado said that the city is permitted to ask ticket buyers if they have a disability and should be more persistent in making sure accessible seats are sold to only the disabled.
“They can’t further inquire about their disability, but they can ask that simple question,” she said. “And if the answer is no, then they can be re-seated to one of the other 9,000 plus seats within Red Rocks and people who actually needs those seats can be reseated to those accessible seats.”
Butler Daniels added that money is not the ultimate goal for the plaintiffs.
“We’re asking them to make the necessary changes so that people who use wheelchairs can enjoy this amazing Colorado treasure,” she said. “We think a lot of self-policing would happen if everybody understood that was in fact the accessible section,” Butler Daniels said.
In a statement, Red Rocks spokesman Brian Kitts said, “What the real problem is that people knowingly buy those tickets knowing that they are for accessible patrons.”
He added that tickets for the 2017 season will now be clearly marked.
“When you buy those tickets you know whether you’re about to take someone’s accessible seat and whether you’re willing to do that,” he said.