Some arena lots filled; others had spots

Six parking lots filled up, several others were more than half-full and at least one car was towed away as the Brad Paisley concert at Intrust Bank Arena started Saturday night.

Meanwhile, traffic on the streets around the new downtown arena flowed smoothly as thousands drove in for the venue's first concert.

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."

How traffic flowed out is a question that couldn't be answered before press time, but check with Kansas.com and see Monday's Wichita Eagle to learn more.

As the concert started, at least six lots were packed.

The Spaghetti Works lot sold out its 130 spaces. The city-owned Lot C on Emporia and Lewis filled its 180 spaces. Lots owned by Professional Engineering Consultants and GLMV Architecture also filled to capacity, Pankratz said.

Hundreds of people packed city buses and trolleys that shuttled people from remote parking lots.

"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 new 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.

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

"As far as traffic flow, I thought it was incredibly smooth," O'Brien said. "There were no traffic accidents at or around the arena."

O'Brien 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.

"All the street parking is taken, but the State Office Building (parking garage) is half-empty," he said.

Dozens of free parking spots along city streets weren't used. And several parking lots leased to the city for events only, including one at The Eagle, had only a fraction of their spots filled.

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 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.

Some people just parked wherever they could find a free spot.

Raven Ramirez of Wichita said she parked "really far away" for free. But the temperatures hovered around 10 degrees.

"It was so far and it's so cold," she said. "It was horrible."