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Kids, educators utilize new sensory space at Kansas City Mavericks game for first time

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Posted at 5:23 PM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-08 13:27:47-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — In addition to hosting its annual "Kids Day," the Kansas City Mavericks debuted its new sensory space at Cable Dahmer Arena Tuesday.

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The space, which is located right behind the accessibility seating on the second floor of Cable Dahmer Arena, was created to provide a space away from typical sounds and other sensory triggers — like bright lights, smoke, cheering, music — at hockey games. The room includes elements like dim lighting, carpet, toys, rugs and quiet.

“This space is important to us because our son, and one of Lamar’s many grandchildren, is in a wheelchair,” said James Arkell, one of the Mavericks owners. “He has sensory issues, and we wanted to create a space that was welcoming for everyone.”

Lamar Hunt Jr. is another owner of the Mavericks.

Arkell’s wife, Sarah, knows firsthand why a space like this is necessary for a parent like her.

“There’s been so many times where he’s a little bit overwhelmed and you don’t know what to do, and you may not know what’s wrong,” she said. “So having a space like that, where you can just sort of calm down, not having to worry about someone maybe trying to figure out what’s wrong with him, and letting him just calm down and hang out or even just get on the ground.”

This was the first of 10 games throughout the year where individuals are encouraged to utilize the space. Visitors can utilize the space during hockey games after reserving a space through the arena's box office, according to a release.

Laura Franken is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Blue Valley School District. She and her colleagues brought their students to Tuesday’s game. While she knew they were in for a game of hockey, she had no idea what to expect beyond guaranteed accessibility seating.

“I didn’t realize that spaces like this existed within this facility,” Franken says. “It really gives our students the opportunity to experience such events like the hockey tournament and the hockey events, and when they get overwhelmed, to have a quiet space and a safe space for them.”

As a parent to a daughter with autism, Franken likes the idea of having options.

“It’s so nice, both as a parent and a professional, that we can be out in our community, we can experience the same events that everybody gets to experience, but then we can also step back and have a safe place whenever we get overwhelmed,” Franken said.

All of those options — accessibility seating, a sensory room and the family bathroom — are all within steps of each other.

“It’s intimate, and the kids with these sort of special needs and things like that can engage in a very simple way, much easier, say, than some of these bigger stadiums,” Hunt said.

Franken says it is public places like big stadiums that can improve inclusivity and accessibility by modifying the space they already have.

“I think when we think of accessibility, we think of ADA codes, such as those with physical impairment who use wheelchairs and walkers and transportation, but we really fail to (remember) about accessibility in space itself, within a building and facility,” Franken said. “I think the more the community can collaborate with therapists, special educators, parents with children of special needs, the more we can come together and make spaces such as this one.”