Some 23 years after Congress used federal muscle to open jobs, public transportation and public accommodations to disabled Americans, another venue is coming under the federal mandate -- swimming pools.
Beginning this week, most public swimming pools, wading pools and spas must be accessible to disabled people to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Facilities that don't meet the standard may face civil penalties of $55,000.
The move has been in the works for several years. The Justice Department published standards for accessibility in 2010 and announced a March 2012 deadline for compliance. But confusion over the standards became so contentious that pool operators threatened coast-to-coast pool closures last spring, a scare dubbed "Poolmagedden."
In response to the uproar, the Department of Justice moved the deadline to Jan. 31, sought to clarify the rule and grandfathered in some equipment that was purchased by pool operators during the debacle. The Justice Department also reiterated that pool operators need to provide access to existing pools only if it is "readily achievable," meaning it does not involve significant difficulty or expense.
Advocates for the disabled say there is "no excuse" for public pools not to be accessible.
"They've had plenty of time" to find a suitable way to accommodate disabled swimmers, said Patrick Wojahn, a public policy analyst with the National Disability Rights Network. "It's time to make this happen so that people with disabilities don't have to go through another summer without being able to go swimming with their families."
The new rule applies to all public swimming pools, hotels, motels, health clubs, recreation centers, public country clubs and businesses. It also applies to community pools associated with private residential communities if the pool is made available to the public for rental or use.
Hotel industry officials say they have not conducted surveys of hotel compliance but say all major hotel chains have made their pools accessible. They believe many smaller hotel and motels have also made the change or are exempted because the accessibility is not "readily achievable."
"We spent a year, really, educating our members on what the requirements are," said Marlene Colucci, executive vice president of public policy for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
But Colucci believes that while the Justice Department rules solve one problem, they create another.
The chair lifts are an "attractive nuisance," Colucci said. "You have these very large machines, which are pool lifts, and children are naturally attracted to them," Colucci said. Many hotels have removed swimming pool diving boards because they were dangerous, she said, and now they are concerned about the safety of the chair lifts.
"If there's an injury that happens as a result, there's really no protection from liability, whether you're a hotel owner or the owner of a public pool," she said.
Wojahn dismisses those concerns.
"These lifts have been put in pools all across the country and never has there been any (documented) incident of any child injuring (himself) or herself in a swimming pool," he said. "These are no more dangerous than a diving board or the ladder that you already see that are fixtures in swimming pools."
According to the Justice Department, the ADA allows businesses to consider "legitimate safety requirements" in determining whether an action is readily achievable but cannot base a decision "on speculation or unsubstantiated generalizations about safety concerns or risks."
America’s colleges and universities used more than $2 billion in student fees — an average of more than $500 per student — to subsidize rapidly growing university athletic budgets, as Ohio University professor Richard Vedder wrote at BloombergView today. Those fees can top $1,000 a year at some schools, and as Vedder writes, reliance on them ends up making college more expensive for students and often places the burden on the poorest students. And most of the time, students don’t even know they’re paying the fees.
In addition to student fees, athletic programs are relying more on money from general university budgets, so taxpayers are also spending millions of dollars a year to cover shortfalls as athletic budgets continue to grow faster than academic budgets. But as Vedder noted, and as this chart from a study by the Delta Cost Project shows, that isn’t happening at the biggest, richest athletic programs, with a few notable exceptions. Rather, it becomes a problem in the bottom half of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) and gets worse in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) and at non-football Division I schools:
That may make it seem like we’re dealing with two separate problems when we talk about college sports, then: one at the biggest schools, where amateurism and paying college players is the biggest issue, and another at the smaller schools, where rising budgets and increased student subsidies are the biggest problems. But those problems might actually be linked, because as Sports On Earth’s Patrick Hruby has reported, amateurism and tax-exempt statuses of athletic departments have increased costs and inflated budgets at the biggest schools. Small schools don’t have to keep up dollar-for-dollar, but the inflation still trickles down because they operate in the same market when it comes to recruiting, facilities, and coaches. Unlike the large schools, though, they don’t have TV networks and revenue streams to cover the growing costs.
Defenders of the NCAA status quo aren’t wrong when they assert that smaller schools probably can’t afford to operate in a system that compensates players. But is that really a bad thing? Ending the amateurism ruse would separate the athletic departments that can afford to participate in such a system (and despite their claims, most of the biggest schools can) from those that can’t compete in a system that includes schools like Texas, Kentucky, and Ohio State. That reality would let smaller schools exchange the big-budget recruiting trips, the expensive cross-country game travel, and the shiny new facilities of the current system for a model that treats intercollegiate sports like the extracurricular activities NCAA defenders say they are. Because while the big business of college sports is thriving at the top and would continue to do so even if athletes are compensated, treating sports as a business clearly doesn’t make sense in the middle or at the bottom of Division I. Right now, though, there’s more incentive to ask for subsidies than to accept a scaled-back athletic program.
Schools argue that they use sports to attract students, and thus subsidizing sports is a smart use of their resources. But that doesn’t really work. Data show that national championships boost enrollment, but most of these small schools aren’t competing for national titles, and Vedder notes that 72 percent of students in a recent poll said sports had an “extremely unimportant” or “unimportant” role in their school choice. So if Florida Gulf Coast is relying on a lightning-in-a-bottle Sweet 16 run every March to survive as a school, or if Appalachian State needs a once-in-a-lifetime upset to attract students, that’s an indication not that they need sports but that they’re running a misguided operation. And fleecing unwitting students and taxpayers to prop up a bad business model doesn’t make any sense at all.
Faced with the possibility of a dank April, dubious prospects, and swaths of empty red and blue seats, the Red Sox are ripping a page from the strategy manuals of down-market teams across Major League Baseball. They are offering free food and reduced-price beer. Yes, at Red Sox games, though only in April.
Kids under 14 will eat free — well, before the third inning, provided they go to specially designated concession stands to pick up their Fenway Frank, Goldfish, and carton of juice. Around the park, buy one hot dog, get a second for free. Hot chocolate will be sold for half-price. And beer, which flows from the Fenway taps like liquid gold and costs almost as much, will be sold for $5 per 12-ounce cup, down from between $7.50-$8.50.
It’s something that’s more likely to be seen in Kansas City, Mo., or St. Petersburg, Fla., or Arlington, Texas, than Boston, places where fans are often drawn by giveaways and Dollar Dog nights.
But with all that went on in 2012 with the Red Sox, it’s clear that the team is ready to admit to fan dissatisfaction and capitulate to fan demand for a friendlier environment around the Olde Towne Team.
It also needs to sell tickets.
“We recognize that the sellout streak is likely going to be coming to an end in early April, and we’re looking for ways to thank our fans for their incredible support and commitment,” Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said.
The Sox expect their home opener on April 8 against the Orioles to be a sellout — though there were tickets available as of Monday afternoon — but beyond that, there are serious questions.
Tickets remain for all home dates in April, and the Sox hope that the fan appreciation discounts will help boost ticket sales.
“We’re looking for ways to fill the ballpark, and hopefully this will help,” Kennedy said. “But more importantly, that it be received as a thank you given everything we’ve been through the last nine, 10 years together. We thought it was an appropriate gesture.”
There’s no question that the Sox have a tough slog in April. Not only is the team coming off a 69-93 season, complete with the Bobby Valentine managerial disaster, but it’s hosting 17 games in the span of 21 days in April, only the second time that has happened in the 113-year history of the club and the first time in 23 years.
And the teams visiting Fenway in April aren’t exactly the iron of the American League. While the Sox do have division foes Baltimore and Tampa Bay on the schedule, they also have the A’s, Royals, and woeful Houston Astros.
In another family-friendly move, or one in response to chilly April evenings, 11 of the 17 home games in April will start before 7 p.m.
That includes eight true afternoon games and three games with a first pitch set for 6:35 p.m.
That’s a rare concession for a team so committed to night games that it often had its players grumbling about not playing day games on getaway days.
It’s all part of the team’s push to be more welcoming to fans, as the Sox have encountered trouble selling tickets for the first time in recent memory.
Season-ticket renewals were down about 10 percent over last season, and tickets remain for many games throughout the year.
The Sox have tried to put together a more fan-friendly team as well, emphasizing chemistry after a season in which the team was widely regarded as both unlikable and unwatchable.
Perhaps, after a few $5 beers, the team will be able to change that.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.
Facility management has the most influence on crowd safety and on the activities of promoters and entertainers. No matter how a contract between a facility and promoter is written, local facility management must acknowledge and accept its obligation for the safety of the community that it serves. Facility management has primary responsibility for assuring safe conditions in compliance with applicable statutes and reasonable standards. That responsibility also requires cooperative efforts with law enforcement and other event managers. But that cooperation should not relieve facility management of its accountability for providing resources for safe and successful events in the facility.
Facilities management entails a broad array of disciplines including, but not limited to, planning, designing, leasing, space planning, product management, capital management, construction management, property management, and real estate acquisition, planning and disposal.
Twenty-five miles due south of Salt Lake City, a massive construction project is nearing completion. The heavily secured site belongs to the National Security Agency.
"The spy center" -- that's what some of the locals like Jasmine Widmer, who works at Bluffdale's sandwich shop, told our Fox News team as part of an eight month investigation into data collection and privacy rights that will be broadcast Sunday at 9 p.m. ET called "Fox News Reporting: Your Secrets Out.”
The NSA says the Utah Data Center is a facility for the intelligence community that will have a major focus on cyber security. The agency will neither confirm nor deny specifics. Some published reports suggest it could hold 5 zettabytes of data. (Just one zettabyte is the equivalent of about 62 billion stacked iPhones 5's-- that stretches past the moon.
One man we hoped would answer our questions, the current director of the NSA General Keith Alexander, declined Fox News's requests to sit down for an interview, so we stopped by the offices of a Washington think tank, where Alexander was speaking at a cyber security event last year.
Asked if the Utah Data Center would hold the data of American citizens, Alexander said, "No...we don't hold data on U.S. citizens," adding that the NSA staff "take protecting your civil liberties and privacy as the most important thing that they do, and securing this nation."
But critics, including former NSA employees, say the data center is front and center in the debate over liberty, security and privacy.
"[It] raises the most serious questions about the vast amount of data that could be kept in one place for many, many different sources," Thomas Drake told Fox News.
Drake -- who worked at the NSA from Aug. 2001 to Aug. 2008 and was unsuccessfully prosecuted on espionage charges -- says Americans should be concerned about letting the government go too far in the name of security.
"It's in secret so you don't really know," Drake explained. "It's benign, right. If I haven't -- and if I haven't done anything wrong it doesn't matter. The only way you can have perfect security is have a perfect surveillance state. That's George Orwell. That's 1984. That's what that would look like."
Fellow NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, who worked at the NSA for nearly four decades, says it's about the possibility that the government's stunning new capacity to collect, store and analyze data could be abused.
"It's really a-- turnkey situation, where it could be turned quickly and become a totalitarian state pretty quickly," he said. "The capacities to do that is being set up. Now it's a question of if we get the wrong person in office, or if certain people set up their network internally in government, they could make that happen quickly."
According to NSA's chief compliance officer John Delong, whose job is to make sure the laws and policies designed to protect the privacy of U.S. persons is being enforced, part of the frustration is that the rules are specific and secret.
"I think that's sort of the collision, is you have classified rules," DeLong explained during an hour long meeting with Fox News at the NSA. "You now have a somewhat more public data center,"
"These aren't just, like, general policy pronouncements of 'You shall protect privacy.'" he said.
DeLong added that another misconception is that there is only internal oversight, when he says there is "a tremendous amount of external oversight" from the Justice Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and others.
In an email, Vanee' Vines, a public information officer for the NSA, said that the Utah Data Center will be "a state-of-the-art facility designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation. NSA is the executive agent for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and will be the lead agency at the center.”
Because the Utah Data Center is a "secure facility" and you cannot go inside without the needed security clearances, Fox News rented a helicopter and took to the skies, where the depth and breadth of the Utah Center were stunning.
The aerial video footage is exclusive to the Fox News investigation and posted here. Two weeks after our filming, the helicopter pilot reported to our Fox News team that he had been visited by the FBI on a "national security matter."
The pilot said, according to the FBI agents, that the NSA had taken photos of the helicopter once it made several flyovers. These photos allowed the NSA to identify the make and manufacturer of the helicopter in California who, in turn, told the NSA who operates it in the Salt Lake City area.
The FBI wanted to know if we had the proper air space clearances to flyover the site, which the Fox News team did. Satisfied that the pilot was not flying "terrorists" over the site, the questioning concluded. While the pilot passed along the Fox News contact information, there was no further inquiries.
Binney said the helicopter incident "showed the capability of the U.S. government to use information to trace people, their relationship to others and to raise suspicions about their activities and intentions."
The Salinas Sports Complex box office will open for the 2013 season on Monday at 10 a.m. Tickets for the California Rodeo Salinas, set to run July 18 through 21, Professional Bull Riding on July 17 and the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam on May 19 will be available for purchase. Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-549-4989 or coming to the box office at 1034 N. Main St. in Salinas between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday or by visiting www.carodeo.com or www.salinassportscomplex.com any time.
The Rodeo is a four-day event. Children ages 2-12 general admission or reserved grandstand seats are $7. Adult general admission tickets are $13 and reserved grandstand seats are $20 each. Please call the box office for information about season tickets - you can have the same seat for all four days of the Rodeo.
Professional Bull Riding reserved grandstand tickets start at $10 for children ages 2-12 and are $25 or $35, depending on the row, for adults; box seats are $55 for each seat regardless of age. The PBR event features bull riding action with some of the top PBR riders coming to Salinas for this Touring Pro Division stop.
The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam show sells out each year. Ticket prices are $10 for children ages 2-12 and $20 for adults for reserved grandstand seats; box seats are $32 regardless of age. Tickets are $2 more the day of the show if tickets are still available. This family-friendly event is full of monster truck action.
The Purpose of Emergency Management in a Sports Facility:
1. An emergency or a disaster may occur at any time of the day or night, weekend, or holiday, with little or no warning. 2. The succession of events in an emergency or disaster is not predictable; therefore, published operational plans, such as this plan, should serve only as a guide and a checklist, and may require modifications in order to meet the requirements of the emergency.
3. An emergency or a disaster may be declared if information indicates that such conditions are developing or probable. 4. Disasters may be community-wide. Therefore it is necessary for the College to plan for and carry out disaster response and short-term recovery operations in conjunction with local resources.
The safety of the Sport Facility participants and their spectators are of the utmost importance. A good risk management plan will increase the safety for both the participants and the spectators. The Sport Facility Staff will provide clubs with the resources needed to implement a comprehensive risk management plan.
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