PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With a new football season underway, the Philadelphia Eagles want all fans to feel welcome in their home stadium. The team set aside 500 square feet in Lincoln Financial Field to give fans with autism an Eagles-themed hangout of their own.
There’s nothing quite like the sound at the Linc on an Eagles’ game day. That can be both a thrill and a challenge for fans with sensory processing disorders, like 10-year-old Jack and Ryan Ykoruk.
“There’s times when Jack will cover up his ears and kind of pin himself down and we can tell that he’s trying to reel in his thoughts and reel in his emotions because everybody else is being so loud,” father Victor Ykoruk said.
Leaving the Linc for a break means missing the rest of the game because the NFL has a no-reentry policy. And the options for fans who want to stay inside aren’t always enough.
“We have noise-canceling headphones available and fidgets and lap pads. We just felt that there wasn’t a true opportunity for them to take a break,” said Eagles Autism Challenge Executive Director Ryan Hammond.
But now there is. The Eagles Sensory Room — a year in the making — is designed for fans experiencing sensory overload, anxiety or PTSD.
“You come here, you have these soothing lights,” Hammond said. “You see the bubbles rising, it just immediately makes you feel calm.”
The room opened to the public in August and the Eagles gave fans a tour.
“You have fidget toys that are mounted to the wall, people can play and stick LEGOS on our field,” Hammond said. “It’s off of the field so it’s quiet. There are no windows so there aren’t distractions from the game.”
The Eagles are one of the first major sports franchises to build a sensory room inside their home stadium. They have also trained 700 employees about serving people with autism, to make everyone feel welcome.
“To give back to my sons who are on the spectrum, I couldn’t be more proud,” Ykoruk said.
The sensory room was built in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and it’s free to use.
The Eagles host the Washington Redskins at 1 p.m. on Sunday.