Ever since she was a baby, going to football games in Jordan-Hare Stadium has been a family tradition for 42-year old Lindsay McDonald.
She grew up going to watch her father, Johnny McDonald, play for Auburn. After her father retired from football, he joined Lindsay and her mom watching the games from the stands, but now he watches from home.
Lindsay and her mom still attend the games, but getting to their seats is an ordeal now. Lindsay walks slowly one step in front of her 73-year old mom, while she clings onto Lindsay for dear life. Lindsay glances down periodically to make sure her mom’s feet are climbing the stairs safely.
Her mom suffers from neuropathy and has trouble sensing where her limbs are in space, but she continues to brave the stairs for her beloved Tigers. After all, that is what she’s been doing on Saturdays for over 40 years.
But her husband, Lindsay’s dad, isn’t as fortunate. He has a bad knee from his days on the football field. Climbing the steep, rail-less stairs in Jordan-Hare Stadium simply isn’t worth risking a fall onto the hard concrete. Besides, Lindsay only has so many arms to hold onto.
Unfortunately, the story of the McDonald family’s troubles with the stairs in the stadium isn’t a unique one.
Fans of all ages and backgrounds have struggled to travel up and down the steep stairs of Jordan-Hare Stadium. According to 55-year-old Auburn football season ticket holder Lynn Jones, fans maneuvering the steps is a “mistake waiting to happen.”
Fans with physical ailments who are brave enough to attend games often rely on others to help them with the stairs. Getting up to go to the bathroom, get food or drinks or venture around the stadium is like a kid maneuvering a jungle gym.
“I have seen total strangers go out of their way every game to help [people up the stairs], but I mean, I don’t want to fall on somebody,” said 53-year old Auburn alumna Carolyn Thomley. “I don’t want to fall period, but I certainly don’t want to take other people out when I go.”
Despite a statement from Auburn Athletics saying that accessibility is something they prioritize, fans have still voiced safety concerns as a result of the “worrisome” stairs in the stadium.
“Auburn University prioritizes accessibility within all its facilities, and Jordan-Hare Stadium is no different,” said Auburn football Sports Information Director Kirk Sampson on behalf of the Athletics Department. “Handrails are located throughout the stadium to assist fans with maneuvering stairs. Some areas may contain single handrails to ensure safe ingress and egress for all attendees.”
The e-mail went on to say that attendees can contact Stadium Control (334-844-2807) or Text Assist (334-591-4357) if accessibility issues arise.
“Auburn remains committed to responding to the needs of its guests and to ensuring accessibility for all,” Sampson said.
However, fans have voiced frustration and concern that there are no handrails to grab and, according to fans, the low traction and the lack of color changes to help with visibility makes slipping easy, especially when it is wet.
“I think they need to, maybe not have an entire railing go down, but at each step maybe have one of those rounded handles. Something for people to grab onto if they start to fall,” Jones said. “There’s just not anything to hold onto except for each other. We’ve seen, especially a lot of older people, just fall and tumble down the stairs.”
Children to students to elderly fans who have been attending Auburn games for years all have the same dilemma: the options are to attend games and struggle with the stairs or miss out on game day in Jordan Hare.
Auburn senior in rehabilitation and disability studies, Maegan Johnson, feels isolated by her difficulties using the stairs. She wants to sit and enjoy the football games with her sorority or with the EAGLES program, but because she has to rely on her friends to help her up the stairs, she opted out of buying student tickets in her second year at Auburn.
For Johnson, the stair issues strip away her independence and make her feel like she causes others trouble.
“There are no rails going downstairs, so I was never able to sit with my friends because it was a struggle to walk down stairs,” Johnson said. “I’d have to hold onto a friend, and that scared me because if I fell, she would fall with me.”
While freshman in genetics, Mia Deaton, offered a solution for students to submit a concern to Auburn Answers for SGA to attempt to resolve the issue, this is an issue that has more far-reaching effects that primarily students.
SGA deals with any issues that deal with Auburn’s campus, so how much they can fix this accessibility issue for all of Auburn is unknown.
However, for fans like Jones and her family, Auburn Answers is not an available resource.
As she and her husband venture up to row 10 of section 16, she hangs onto her husband, and her 8-year old granddaughter trails just behind, slowly advancing one step at a time and glancing down at her feet in between steps. The girl has no mobility issues and no disability, but she is still “terrified” of falling, Jones said.
Jones is from Milton, Florida, and she and her husband have been traveling down for Auburn home games for about 14 years. The couple has season tickets, and she said attending Auburn games would “basically become a new experience” with the addition of stair rails.
“[Making changes to the stairs] would be great,” Jones said. “It would definitely improve the
quality of our experience if we could make sure that we could get up and down the stairs safely, get up the ramp, and get faster access to food and water.”
What seems to frustrate fans the most is the lack of knowledge on the ADA requirements of Jordan Hare — for some, there has to be a reason why rails are not already there, but that reason is unknown by the public.
The Plainsman attempted to call different ADA leaders in Alabama and contact people in the Auburn Athletics Department about the issue, but received no response except Sampson’s e-mail.
“I don’t see how there could be a possible bad outcome of putting in rails,” Thomley said. “Am I missing something? What’s the down side?... I could see somebody saying ‘Hey, I fell. I’m suing.’ I don’t know what would be cheaper: to settle that or to put some rails in.”
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Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.