Gateway Ice Center sued for barring teens in wheelchairs from entering ice rink

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Megan McKeon visited Gateway Ice Center in 2016 to celebrate her best friend's 16th birthday, but after just 10 minutes on the ice, she said she was asked to exit the rink. Action News spoke to her the day after she said she was iced out.

"He said, 'I'm sorry, I'm trying to follow my rules, I'm just trying to keep my job and everything'," she said.

Megan was left sitting out while the rest of her friends enjoyed making memories on the ice.

A year later, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleges a similar situation happened to Laila Neal, who is also in a wheelchair.

On Friday, the attorney who represents Megan and Laila says they simply wanted to enjoy the birthday parties they were invited to but "...because of the discriminatory policy, were wholly prohibited from doing so. It is absolutely unacceptable, and completely unlawful."

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says the case is unique and novel.

"It's an ice-skating rink, it's something different. Is it inherently dangerous to ice skate? Does it make it inherently more dangerous to put wheelchairs out on the ice rink when others are skating? That's a question that a jury is going to have to decide," says Capozzi.

Capozzi says a judge or jury will also have to determine whether there's a state and federal violation. The Gateway Ice Center's disclosure of the policy on their website will be put it to the legal test.

"Can they force people to be segregated out? Those with disabilities - should they be segregated out from those without disabilities?"

The ice-skating rink is owned by the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, which is managed by Fresno developer Terance Frazier and Congressman TJ Cox. Despite several attempts by the plaintiffs to have Congressman Cox personally liable in the case. So far the judge has denied it.

Calls to the attorney representing the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation were not returned Friday.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.