SEATTLE, Wash. – For most sports enthusiasts immersing themselves in the roar of a stadium is the best part of fan experience. This year, numerous NFL teams are tailoring their venues for a very distinct group of spectators – those who otherwise might not be able to join in.
While the sights and sounds of attending a sporting event can make it an unforgettable experience, Traci Schneider knows it’s not for everyone.
“For a lot of people that can be really, really overwhelming.”
It’s why more and more teams are adding sensory rooms to their venues. We were given access to one at CenturyLink Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks.
“This is a place to go and a place to be safe and kind of just a little break to get away from it all,” explained Schneider. “So, any fan can come in here.”
Schneider’s 17-year-old son Ben has autism.
“Sensory issues are a big challenge for him, and I know what that looks like as a mom,” said Schneider. “And you want to make the world a little bit easier for your kids to navigate.”
She helped provide input for this space, because not only is she a mom of a child with autism, but she’s also married to the Seahawks’ general manager.
Schneider says the room is meant to help people with autism, anxiety, PTSD and other sensory disorders.
“We still have a TV so people can still watch what’s happening out on the field,” Schneider said.
The Seahawk’s room features dimmable overhead lighting, hooded chairs, a calming bubble wall and a fiber-optic waterfall curtain.
“They slowly change colors and they’re meant to be touched,” Schneider said.
All of the items help to calm a person. In addition to the sensory room, the Seahawks are the first to offer autism kits that include noise cancelling headphones and information on when the loudest moments in the game are expected to happen, including pyrotechnics.
Schneider says the ultimate goal is to provide a safe space for anyone who may need a temporary reprieve without making them feel like they’re missing out.
“So just knowing that that is supporting our fans and making them feel welcome. I think is just huge.”