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Paraplegic hockey fan shut out of disabled parking — gets ticket

'I shouldn’t have to go to Memorial Gardens an hour and a half earlier just because I’m in a wheelchair...the disabled spots are there for a reason, it’s not fair that because I’m in a chair and my truck needs the extra space I get another $40 added to my hockey night'

NORTH BAY — Since the return of OHL hockey to North Bay, one of the recurring issues for Battalion fans is the lack of on-site parking at Memorial Gardens. 

When the team is playing well and attendance is up, ticket holders — and the residents who live in the area surrounding Memorial Gardens — must deal with the overflow of vehicles that inevitably wind up on nearby side streets and in business parking lots. During the winter months, this situation is often exacerbated by snowbanks, road conditions, and the occasional discourteous parking job.

One local hockey fan, a paraplegic who lost the use of his legs in a 2003 motorcycle collision, says his enjoyment of the Battalion games has been severely and unfairly impacted by another wrinkle of the Memorial Gardens parking debacle. 

Brad Poeta says in early April, he went to a 7 p.m. Battalion game with his elderly grandmother and young daughter, tried to find an accessible parking space and could not. Poeta uses a hoist and lift system to enter and exit his pickup truck. This apparatus sits in the bed of the truck and requires ample space around the parked vehicle to properly operate.

So, fearing they would miss puck drop, they parked as close as possible to the arena. When they returned after the game, Poeta had received a $40 parking ticket.

"At 6:20 p.m., we started circling the arena for a spot. Shy of parking three blocks away and my elderly Nan having to walk and forcing me to wheel it through the snow, it just wasn’t practical. I feel there should be a distinction between disabled parking and wheelchair parking like there are spots for expectant mothers," at some local businesses, he says. "I should be able to go to a hockey game in the city I pay taxes — the taxes that helped pay for the upgrades to the rink — without getting a ticket."

There are a total of 38 accessible spots at Memorial Gardens, including 24 on the side toward the YMCA and back of Memorial Gardens, which would be considered “van accessible” and an additional 14 in the front, says the City of North Bay. Unrelated to Poeta's experience in April, an extra five accessible spots have been created temporarily for the playoffs.

The accessible spaces all have signs but the pavement markings are faded or partially obscured by sand from winter maintenance (see photos above). In the midst of a snow event, it would be nearly impossible to discern whether or not an accessible space could accommodate a side entry vehicle without the signage to indicate it.

Based on 1,373 total parking spots, Memorial Gardens is required to have approximately 25 spots, according to the regulations contained in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 Ontario Regulation 191/11 Section 80.36(5).

Poeta's contention is those "van accessible" spaces should be marked as such and those with disability permits that do not require the extra space should park in the other disabled spaces. "You go to Martel & Mitchell Physiotherapy and they have two wheelchair spots with signs to leave room for fold-out doors and trucks."

According to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, "While anyone with a valid disabled parking hangtag can park in a spot designed for vans without penalty, it is considered common courtesy to park in standard accessible spots unless you are driving a side entry minivan."

"I shouldn’t have to go to Memorial Gardens an hour and a half earlier just because I’m in a wheelchair ... the disabled spots are there for a reason, it’s not fair that because I’m in a chair and my truck needs the extra space I get another $40 added to my hockey night."

Poeta says, "For 45 minutes, I looked for a place to park and what was I to do, go home and waste $60-plus for the tickets? I can’t park four blocks away and wheel there. The streets aren’t plowed that well. I didn’t park there 'cause I wanted to I parked there 'cause there was nowhere else."

At a previous Battalion game, Poeta says all the accessible spots were taken that night, as well. "So, I go touring and end up parking in the old ball field in a big puddle. My daughter, her friend and I all got soaking wet feet. At least I can’t feel mine. They had to sit through the game with frozen feet. I wheel out of that puddle and, no exaggeration, I almost fell out of my chair four times from the front wheel catching on a rock and stopping my chair dead and me almost eating the gravel.

"If that happens who do you think my lawyers are going to look to sue? It’s going to be the city and Memorial Gardens and I don’t wanna be the guy that bankrupted the Battalion 'cause of a lawsuit."

As far as the parking ticket, Poeta, says he explained to Ron Melnyk, the municipal by-law officer, that he is on a fixed income. He was offered a time extension to pay the ticket off. Poeta says he was also told to "arrive earlier."

"Of the spots they have available, in the winter there’s no chance I’d be able to get from my truck to the doors, I’d get stuck for sure," Poeta observes. "At the very least the spaces by the main doors should be wheelchair-accessible spots for lifts or side entry. There are only five or so there and they have room for the doors, they are just not marked and should be. I’ve bounced this off many people and they’ve all been surprised that there weren’t already spots designated for people in chairs there.

"It’s a shame it takes something like this to get anything done but let’s hope that it does and those spots by the door are designated for wheelchair parking. It totally defeats being independent not to mention it’s humiliating as a 40-year-old man to have to get help from anyone in front of my daughter — it’s beyond embarrassing."

Besides the difficulty finding available accessible parking with space to operate his lift, Poeta says he often wonders why nothing has been done to rectify the substandard parking arrangement at and around Memorial Gardens.

"We know this is a problem that has been going on for years but they do nothing about it cause like the money," Poeta says. "That’s an extra $250 a game to the city in parking tickets. Usually, when the city knows there’s a problem they identify it and fix it they don’t just keep giving people tickets."

The small-town boy says he has recently seen how parking and accessibility disputes are handled in big cities like Toronto. Poeta says on a recent visit to his specialist, he found he could not operate his lift in the underground garage. He was told to instead park on the street with his accessible parking pass visible. While inside at his appointment, he did receive a ticket for illegal standing but Poeta called the City of Toronto, explained the situation and he says they cancelled the ticket over the phone.


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Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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