City reaches $12 million deal to bring Liberty Bowl in compliance

(WMC-TV) - The City of Memphis made a deal with the feds over the Liberty Bowl. The deal is around about $12 million to bring the stadium in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

City leaders are trying to avoid a lawsuit over the stadium and it's 23-pages of violations. The battle has been going on nearly a decade.

On Tuesday, the mayor announced an agreement with the Department of Justice to get federal money to give people with disabilities all access to the Liberty Bowl.

A half dozen Memphians in wheelchairs, and a service dog, lined the city council committee room to hear a long awaited announcement.

"We have what I do believe is an excellent agreement," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

Mayor A C Wharton says the city signed a deal with the federal government to obtain a Tourist Development Zone reimbursement to make the Liberty Bowl American Disabilities Act compliant.

"We're glad that we're coming to the end of a long process," said Lewis Patrick, Memphis Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities.

As it stands, people in wheelchairs face 187 access violations.

They cannot see over concession stands to buy popcorn, cannot reach some paper towel dispensers, and some water fountains are also out of reach.

They are also limited to one area of the stadium.

Memphis Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb took over negotiations in March, after seven years of stalled debate.

"One was just the debate about it, and then working with the attorneys to see who's right and who's wrong, and then the code was another holdup," said Memphis Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb.

With a new architecture firm on board, Lipscomb lowered renovation costs from $44 million to $12 million, and the feds will reimburse the city.

On top of wheelchair-friendly upgrades, the city will add 282 wheelchair spaces and 282 companion seats.

The stadium will lose about 1,800 of its 61,000 seats.

"This is another opportunity for people with disabilities to engage themselves in the community," said Patrick.

"They're all Americans. They're all human beings. So let's forget the rest of the stuff," said Lipscomb.

Lipscomb anticipates seven months of construction.

He will meet with the governor's staff to get final approval.

If everything goes well, people in wheelchairs should have full access to the Liberty Bowl by this time next year.

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