Concert venues in Fort Collins address accessibility issues for disabled concert goers

Maddie Wright

Concerts require a lot of standing, dancing and occasionally even moshing.

They are filled with people, sweat, colors, loud sounds and lots of physical strain. All this has the potential to be difficult for physically and/or mentally disabled concert-goers.

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The outdoor stage at the Mishawaka Amphitheater is situated on the Poudre River. Photo credit: Randi Mattox

Fort Collins has a handful of old venues that pose an interesting challenge for accessibility and accommodations.

“Initially (the Downtown Artery) started with just the upstairs and it was installed into one of the oldest buildings here in Fort Collins,” said Maxwell Tretter, the assistant director of the Downtown Artery. “At that time they were very conscious about accessibility for those with physical disabilities minus the one flaw, which is that you had to go up these stairs to get up there.”

Each venue differs in what they are able to do for their guests and performers. The Aggie is different from The Downtown Artery, which is different from the Art Lab, which is different from the Mishawaka Amphitheater.

The Mishawaka Amphitheater is another old venue posing different challenges. It was built in 1916, and looking at accessibility here is different from other venues.

“It is very important to provide access to everyone so we have a lot of different ways we do this,” said Dani Grant the owner and general manager at Mishawaka. “We have configured ramps for the entries into the restaurant we have, you know, areas where there are no steps all the way down to the stage in the amphitheater, but it’s not super comfortable and it’s not super easy.”

It is very important to provide access to everyone so we have a lot of different ways we do this.We have configured ramps for the entries into the restaurant we have, you know, areas where there are no steps all the way down to the stage in the amphitheater but it’s not super comfortable and it’s not super easy.” Dani Grant, owner and general manager at Mishawaka concert venue.

 

 Northern Colorado concert venues deal with more than just old buildings and restroom circumstances. The Mishawaka is an outdoor venue which gives the issue of natural disasters.

“We struggle with restrictions on building because we’re in a floodway,” Grant said. “So you know it’s not just about money and putting in ramps, it’s about not being allowed to build things in the floodway so we’re really challenged, you know.”

Collegian file photo

Being outside, the walk to the amphitheater itself is also a difficult feat for some.

“People take shuttles,” Grant said. “Not all of our buses are handicap accessible, but we do have them so we make sure that we provide a space for our handicap bus riders on our handicap shuttles. So we do receive a bunch of phone calls about accommodating.”

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One common thread with every venue is the willingness to adjust and accommodate for the needs of anyone who may need them.

It’s something that we’re always cognizant of and try to make the best adjustments for.” -Maxwell Tretter, the Assistant Director of the Downtown Artery.

“If a person in a wheelchair is going to be coming, we give them preference for having a spot closest to the stage,” Tretter said. “That way they have the best experience possible when they come here. We have members that are blind that frequently come here, and all of our staff members are trained to help them reach all of the different spaces that they would like to experience.”

Tretter said talking about and addressing these issues is an important step in being able to accommodate successfully for those who need it.

“It’s a conversation that comes up frequently,” Tretter said. “We have meetings every week with all the staff members and we always get their input and it’s something that we always address. It’s on our item list every week of ‘this event’s popping up, how can we be accommodating in case x, y and z happens?’ It’s something that we’re always cognizant of and try to make the best adjustments for.”

A staff willing to work hard and be helpful is another key element to being accessible.

“We’ve trained our security guards to offer assistance,” Grant said. “They’ll pick you up in your wheelchair and carry you where you want to be.”

Beyond what audience members are able to do within a venue, it’s important to consider who else utilizes a venue.

“I think something the Artery prides itself on is we’re one of the only venues that have stage access for those with physical disabilities,”  Tretter said.

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @MaddieRWright.