The University of Wisconsin-Superior's Wessman Arena is in the progress of becoming more accessible.
People who use wheelchairs and others who have limited mobility on stairs will soon be able to have a bird's-eye view while attending any event at the arena.
Roughly 130 seats were removed to install a lift ramp and standing platforms with railings on both sides of the press box.
The section of seats on the south end, as well as the first two seats in each row of the next section, were removed to make room for the lift. The lift will go up the existing stairway and new steps have been installed where the two seats were removed.
The top three rows on both sides of the press box were also removed to make room for the platforms for wheelchairs and people who would rather stand than sit at a hockey game. Only the south platform will provide space for wheelchairs.
“This will be a nice benefit for those in wheelchairs, people that like to stand, and the elderly who aren't able to walk that many stairs,” Wessman Arena Manager Steve Kirk said. “It’s a great view from up there and now more people will be able to enjoy it.
“People who use the lift won’t have to go all the way to the top, but can stop anywhere,” he said. “Now, the ones that struggle with steps won’t be restricted to just the first couple of rows.”
Many smaller rinks allow fans to stand along the boards, but that’s not allowed at Wessman Arena.
“Along our boards, it’s too tight against the walls, and on the north end, it’s too close to the locker rooms, so we don’t allow people down there,” Kirk said. “It’s also a safety issue."
With the removal of the 130 seats, Wessman Arena’s seating capacity decreased from 1,550 to 1,420.
The press box will also become more accessible with a bigger door and expanded seating inside.
Work is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, according to Kirk. The university will cover 100% of the project.
“Wessman is going to be 50 years old next year,” Kirk said. “While we’re not building a new building, we continue to update things and we are making it more accessible to everyone.”
The first events that will feature the added amenities include the "Beatdowns in Souptown" -- a mixed martial arts card Sept. 7 -- and the inaugural “Buzzfest” concert, which will feature five tribute bands, on Sept. 14.
The "Beatdown" is hosted by Rob Mrotek of Inner Strength MMA Promotions and Inner Strength Martial Arts. Four title bouts are scheduled and fans will be able to meet UFC and PRIDE legends Mark "The Hammer" Coleman and Marcus "Maximus" Aurelio.
“Buzzfest” is a fundraiser for the UWS and Superior High School hockey teams, as well as the Superior Amateur Hockey Association. Tickets cost $20, and $5 will benefit the organization that sold the ticket.
The ice is scheduled to be installed Sept. 23, and the hockey seasons at UWS begin in October.