Traci Schneider does far more at Seahawks games than watch her husband’s team play.
She knows many other parents do, too.
That’s why the wife of the Seahawks’ general manager has created a sensory room inside CenturyLink Field for use by fans with autism, sensory challenges, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and similar conditions during games and all stadium events.
“We want parents just to be able to be with their kids and just be quiet,” Schneider said Thursday.
“I’m excited, really excited, to launch this.”
The A-OK Sensory Room will open Sunday for the Seahawks’ season opener against Cincinnati. It is located at the guest-services desk at the southwest entrance to the stadium. It is intended to provide a safe and calming environment to help fans and guests who may be feeling overwhelmed or over-stimulated during all stadium events.
The room includes a bubble wall and vertical tubes that house fiber optics to create calming, cascading light effects. There is a television, its sound muted, that will show the Seahawks games for those that want to continue to follow the action on the field.
No registration is required for the stadium’s sensory room. All children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
The room is not staffed. The intent is for parents or care-givers to accompany a person needing a quiet time-out to the room.
“As a parent, you know what your child needs,” Schneider said.
Traci and John Schneider do. They have been advocates for autism awareness and support since their son Ben was diagnosed with autism at age three. He’s now 17.
Years ago the Schneiders created Ben’s Fund, their charity to that provides grants to families across the state for autism causes. Into this year Ben’s Fund had raised $4.25 million.
“We wanted to be inclusive. We wanted to be a stadium where our fans felt welcome,” Traci Schneider said, “and give them a space, and an opportunity, if they were getting overwhelmed—and we all know CenturyLink is very loud and very high-sensory—so just give them a space to have that moment and come back down, so they can rejoin our day, our game day, and be part of it.”
The Seahawks, through the Seahawks Women’s Association, became the first NFL team years ago to offer autism kits at games. The kits include headphones, ear plugs, fidget toys, an identifier badge and other items. The group will continue to offer the kits at games, at the same guest-services desk that is the gateway to the new sensory room.
Those fans looking for the sensory room should go look for this sign at the guest-services area in the southwest corner of CenturyLink Field.
Seattle’s is the 10th NFL stadium with a sensory room. Others include Met Life Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands for Giants and Jets games, plus Minnesota and Philadelphia, Schneider said.
“I love where we are all going, and what we are all doing,” Schneider said, “and how we are trying to be a little bit more inclusive and supportive, to all of our fans.”