The “no re-entry” policy that most large venues have bar guests from exiting the establishment and coming back in. For families of someone with sensory needs, this type of policy is enough to make them reconsider going to a venue such as a sporting event stadium at all.
The Philadelphia Eagles teamed up with a nonprofit organization called KultureCity to add a sensory room to the Lincoln Financial Field to accommodate fans with sensory needs.
This sensory room will provide fans that have sensory needs with a comfortable place to go when they need a chance to decompress from the sensory overload of a football game.
KultureCity – which is based in Birmingham, Alabama – assisted the NFL team in making sure their stadium met all the “sensory inclusive” standards required to be certified.
As part of the sensory inclusion, each guest service stand within the stadium now houses sensory bags filled with an assortment of resources including fidget tools, noise-canceling headphones, weighted lap pads, and verbal cue cards.
Ryan Hammond explained to CNN that guests would not be able to see the football field while they were in the sensory room. He, however, proceeded to clarify that that was the point of the sensory room as it allowed autistic guests – as well as anyone else who was sensory-challenged – an opportunity to calm down and “center themselves” so they could continue to enjoy the game.
A brand-new "state of the art" sensory room has landed at the Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field. https://t.co/ooVmLd0As5
— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 11, 2019
While news of the state-of-the-art sensory room opening broke a few days ago, the story has only recently begun to grow legs on social media. On Twitter, many have been quick to praise the Philadelphia Eagles for doing what they believe other teams need to step up and do as well.
The Philly Eagles opened a sensory room for their fans with sensory issues. Good going, Eagles! We need more of these.
— Savvi ???? (@BirdGirl711) August 11, 2019
I just read that the @Eagles made a sensory space available for their home games. Very cool! Anytime sensory kids get to enjoy activities with their families in safe spaces it’s great. Come on @NFL let’s make this a standard!
— Nicki Needs An Adult (@NeedsAdult) August 11, 2019
According to KultureCity Chief Operating Officer Uma Srivastava, the goal of the organization is to “prevent social isolation for those with sensory needs. We provide sensory tools and recommendations to make simple modifications so an individual with sensory needs is able to enjoy anything.”
As a part of the effort to meet the “sensory-inclusive” certification standards, all 700 of the stadium employees were required to participate in hands-on training geared toward how to recognize and assist fans who may be experiencing a sensory overload.
The facility recently held what they called a “soft launch” of the sensory room which included the presence of the team’s costumed mascot, Swoop, who, like every other member of the stadium staff, has also been trained on how to interact with fans utilizing the sensory room.
According to an interview with CNN, Eagles fan and father Victor Ykoruk has expressed that the addition is a great resource for parents of sensory sensitive children who want to be able to include them in social experiences.
“The Eagles are the first NFL franchise to open a sensory room, exclusively for fans with sensory challenges who might need to decompress from all the excitement and noise happening out by the field.” Good of them to do this. @Eagles https://t.co/3GHrS2KH8Q
— Juan G (@ChiTownOsos08) August 11, 2019
Ykoruk brought his twin boys Ryan and Jack to the recent launch of the project at the stadium. He told reporters that the mascot was calm, warm, and interactive with the kids in a way that was direct, but not overwhelming. The proud father went on to say that the new program makes it feasible and less daunting for families like his to attend sporting events without the fear of stares and stigma.
“To me it means the world because you grow up loving this team. I couldn’t be more proud of them, it gives me a big teaching tool to teach my boys about sportsmanship and camaraderie and doing the right thing and giving back to a community.” Ykoruk said.