This article is part of the wheelchair travel blog series, Accessible Gameday. In this series, I’ll share my experiences with wheelchair accessibility at ballparks and sports stadiums around the country.
I am a huge fan of the Florida State Seminoles and their championship college football team. As you may have read in my bio, I earned two degrees from Florida State University and am a proud alumnus. Some of my best college memories are from saturdays inside Doak S. Campbell Stadium.
The 2013 BCS National Championship team’s magical,
undefeated unconquered run to the Rose Bowl is what encouraged me to travel with my wheelchair for the first time. College football and the ‘Noles, in a sense, saved me from the early despair of disability and got me back up in the air. The UNCONQUERED Seminole spirit I gained at university was perhaps the greatest gift I have ever received.
Now, as part of this Accessible Gameday blog series, I’m excited to share what a wheelchair accessible college football experience is like in Tallahassee, Florida. No doubt, the experience is different outside of the student section and with a wheelchair, but I hope to encourage more disabled FSU fans to enjoy a game under the lights of Doak Campbell Stadium.
Tickets & Seating Options
I love my alma mater, but I’m going to hold them accountable to the ADA just as I would any other venue. For a university that has been a bastion of diversity and inclusiveness across its entire history, I’m sad to say that it has failed the disability community in access to sporting events. The stadium has been updated, remodeled or expanded eight times since the ADA became law in 1990. Wheelchair users will find their seating options extremely limited, and with some of the worst views in the entire stadium.
During my time as a student at Florida State, I was able-bodied and free of disability or physical limitations. It is a real shame, and a black eye on the honor of my university, that disabled students aren’t afforded the same level of access as their able-bodied peers. The same is true for disabled alumni, a group of which I am now a part.
I have highlighted wheelchair accessible seating areas in blue on the stadium map above. Allow me to discuss these options in greater detail.
Although there are many ADA seats in the South End Zone, there is only one row of seats truly on the sideline. These are sections 9 through 11, and are in the very first row behind the visiting team bench. My season tickets are in section 10, but the cost is quite high due to the added requirements of booster membership. Wheelchair accessible sideline seats are not available for purchase on a per-game basis, due to the fact that they are sold as season tickets to boosters and alumni.
Sections 38 and 39 are the next closest seats to the sideline, on the home team’s side. These are also taken by season ticket holders.
If you don’t intend to purchase season tickets of your own, you’ll be limited to the accessible seating in the South End Zone. Wheelchair seating spaces are available at the rear of sections 117 through 123. Sections 117 and 118 are reserved for the visiting team, but may be released if FSU’s opponent is unable to sell out their block.
New this year are ADA seats in the Champions Club, the most expensive non-suite area of the stadium. These seats are in the South End Zone in the 200- and 300-levels, but are in the very last row (aka the “rafters”). ADA seating is available in the following Champions Club sections: 214, 217, 219, 223, 225, 228, 315, 319, 323 and 327.
One week ago, on November 11, 2016, I attended the game against Boston College. I decided to shell out $200 for a ticket in section 315 of the Champions Club. When I saw just how disappointing the view was, I was not surprised that only a handful of other wheelchair users had paid the ridiculous premium. My able-bodied friends had $45 per game season tickets in section 8 (on the 25-yard line), with a far superior view. The free food and non-alcoholic beverages in the Champions Club aren’t worth a $155 premium!
That same weekend, I attended the DOAK AFTER DARK music concert at the stadium. I was seated in section 121, in the South End Zone. End zone seats are among the least desirable for football games, but the concert stage was set-up to face that end of the stadium. I expected to have a great time (and view).
Unfortunately, that was not to be. Stadium staff allowed concert-goers to stand on their seats ahead of me, thereby blocking my view of the stage and performance. I brought this up at the event, but was told there was no other place to accommodate me. So, I paid the same amount as everyone else for the ticket, but got to spend two hours staring at the backs of the people in front of me. The concert was effectively ruined for me, and I’d have preferred to save the money and listen to music on my iPod.
Although I was frustrated and disappointed by the concert set-up, I haven’t found this to be a problem at football games. People in the end zones generally remain seated during the football games, and you are able to see the action the majority of the time. Still, the end zone perspective is less than ideal.
Single game tickets in ADA sections can be purchased by calling the FSU Ticket Office at +1 (850) 644-1830 or +1 (888) 378-6653. You may also send an e-mail with questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information can be found at the Florida State University athletics website, www.seminoles.com.
To access an interactive version of the stadium seating map, click here.
Location and Transportation
Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium is located at 1 Champions Way, Tallahassee, FL 32304.
Disabled parking is available in reserved gameday lots, but a prior application is required. More information on this process is available here. Handicap parking is available in each of the non-reserved lots and garages on the Florida State campus, but could mean a long walk or roll to the stadium. For a map of parking lots on the FSU campus, click here (PDF). In my own experience, the University will NOT allow you to drop-off a wheelchair user on Champions Way unless you have a reserved parking pass.
Additional parking is available at the Donald L. Tucker Center, at 505 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee, FL 32301. The Spirit Express transports fans from this parking lot to the stadium. The shuttle buses are wheelchair accessible.
Additional Accessibility Information
In addition to ADA seating locations, Doak Campbell Stadium is also equipped with other features to make attending a game easier for people with disabilities. These include assisted listening devices, which can be picked up from the police sub-station outside stadium Gate C.
Accessible stalls are available in most bathrooms, and private family or companion restrooms are spread throughout the stadium. Be advised that the doors to private bathrooms are heavy, and may be difficult to open without assistance. I also found the toilet paper dispensers to be too far out of reach in some, but not all, companion bathrooms.
The athletics departments sets up misting stations inside the stadium for games early in the season, where the temperature is highest. These misting stations will allow you to seek some relief from the sometimes oppressive heat. During the 2016 season, misting stations were available near gates B, E, H and L.
Elevators and ramps make access possible throughout the interior of the stadium. Food and beverage stands are available throughout the stadium and on all levels. Champions Club ticket holders have access to complimentary food and drink inside the air-conditioned club and at outside concession stands.
I love Florida State. I owe so much of my happiness and success to my time as a student there. But, the university can and should do better by striving to provide equal access to the gameday experience.
That said, regardless of where you sit – you’ll get to take part in one of the most incredible gamedays in college football. From the historic tradition of Osceola and Renegade planting the flaming spear to the war chant (that was co-opted by the Atlanta Braves), you’ll come to love Tallahassee and the ‘Noles. The largest video board in college football, at 63 feet tall, will ensure you won’t miss a moment of the action (even from the nosebleed accessible seats).