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No major speed bumps for traffic leaving downtown after concert

Traffic flowed smoothly around the new Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday night as thousands drove in for the venue’s first concert, then left nearly as effortlessly.

Wichita police Sgt. Kelly O’Brien said the 15 officers assigned to monitor traffic and pedestrians around the concert reported few problems.

“The only place that really bottlenecked was Waterman and Emporia, right near the arena,” he said. “That was because one, all the buses, and two, the pedestrian traffic.”

Immediately after the concert, just after 11 p.m., long lines of people waited to board six buses to parking lots. A large number of cars, limos and hotel vans parked along Waterman and Emporia, waiting to pick people up.

The buses cycled continuously until 11:40 p.m., when one empty bus sat outside the arena with no one wanting a ride.

“In general it went extremely well,” O’Brien said. “Within about 25 minutes most of the parking was completely dispersed.”

The relatively smooth start to arena parking came after months of speculation and criticism that Wichita and Sedgwick County didn’t adequately plan parking.

“We’re really happy,” said Mandy Pankratz, who is in charge of parking for the city. “The fact that we had few if any traffic or parking issues is great.”

Earlier in the evening, when the concert started, at least six lots were packed, and several others were more than half full.

The Spaghetti Works lot sold out its 130 spaces at $15 a pop[each]. The city-owned Lot C on Emporia and Lewis filled its 180 $8 spaces. Hundreds packed five city buses and two trolleys that shuttled people from remote parking lots at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, Old Town and elsewhere.

“It’s been great,” Pankratz said as she drove around surveying lots. “A lot of folks came in early and had dinner or a drink, which helps alleviate the pressure.”

Tori Hofmeier and her boyfriend, Andrew Capps, said they were among the many people who worried about parking at the arena.

They showed up about an hour early and parked for $10 about two blocks away.

Their assessment of parking: “It’s easy if you want to pay the money,” Hofmeier said as she made the frigid walk along Waterman.

Police said one car on South Commerce Street was towed because it was blocking a garage, but most people were able to find legal parking within a few blocks of the arena.

Dozens of free parking spots along city streets weren’t used. And several parking lots leased to the city for events only filled a fraction of their spots.

As the concert got going, at least five handicapped parking spaces were still available at Lot D, at Waterman and Rock Island.

Karen Thomas and Carmen Thomas, who uses a wheelchair, came from Kansas City to see Paisley play.

They said they hadn’t studied parking ahead of time but it wasn’t a problem.

They paid $8 and parked two blocks away.

“They had lots of handicap parking, which was great,” Karen Thomas said as they approached the front doors and entered the warm arena.Kevin Berube and his wife considered parking in a lot close to the arena, but decided to take the shuttle from free parking at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium instead.

“It was excellent,” he said.

Mark and Janice Tuttle came from Conway Springs to see the country star play.

They checked for parking online, found a choice lot at English and Broadway for $8 and ate at the nearby La Parrillada restaurant, which was packed.

The Web site the city and Wichita Downtown Development Corporation created to show people parking options crashed around 6 p.m. because so many people were using it.

A new server is expected to keep the site accessible in the future.

Chris Blasedel rode the Q-Line from Old Town after having dinner. He said parking was easy.

“People need to stop complaining about the parking downtown,” he said. “There’s plenty of parking. You just need to park and hop the Q-Line.”Some people parked wherever they could find a free spot.

Raven Ramirez of Wichita said she parked “really far away” for free. But the temperatures hovered in the teens.

“It was so far and it’s so cold,” she said. “It was horrible.”

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