Politics & Government

New stadium may have half the parking of Lawrence-Dumont. An expert says there’s enough

There are enough public and private parking spaces downtown to serve the new baseball stadium, but not close-in, the head of a national parking company told a Wichita advisory group.

Instead of a main parking lot right next to the ball park — the way it was at the now-demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium — parking for Wichita’s new Triple-A team will be a patchwork of existing public lots and garages, streetside parking, and office parking that is vacant during evenings and weekends.

That’s the analysis by Jeff Wolfe, president and CEO of The Car Park Inc., who briefed the city’s Transit Advisory Board about stadium parking Wednesday.

Walkability has been a significantly higher priority than parkability in planning the stadium, the future home of a Miami Marlins farm team now called the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

The overall goal is to create a pedestrian, bike and public-transit friendly business district with bars and restaurants anchored by the crowds drawn to the ball park.

Wolfe was asked to analyze the parking situation because his company manages Wichita’s city-owned parking, said senior management analyst Scott Wadle.

Before Wolfe spoke, city staff played a KWCH-TV report about Tulsa and how people there enjoy the long walk to their minor-league ball park, which doesn’t have on-site parking for the general public.

The Tulsa team claims there are 3,500 free or paid spaces within a five-minute walk of the ball park and 5,000 within a 10-minute radius.

Wolfe, the former chairman of the National Parking Association, said Wichita will need at most 3,400 spaces to accommodate a sellout event at the new ball park, which is under construction at the northwest corner of Maple and McLean.

That estimate is based on an industry standard of one car for every three people in attendance and a maximum capacity of 10,000 at the new ball park, he said.

Most games, the stadium won’t really need that many spaces, he said.

“You don’t typically build a church for Easter Sunday, you don’t typically build a parking lot for Easter Sunday either,” he said.

The average event at the park will draw 5,000 to 6,000 people, resulting in a parking requirement of 1,500 to 2,500, he said.

Wolfe said the new stadium is projected to have about 420 on-site spaces.

That’s about half as many as when it was Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which could hold only about 60 percent as many people as the new ball park.

Within about a quarter mile of the stadium — the maximum people will usually walk without complaining — there are 523 available on-street spaces, 545 pay spaces in city lots and garages, and 1,974 spaces on private property, for a total of 3,462, Wolfe said.

As happened near the Intrust Bank Arena, business owners will likely clear space on their properties for event parking at a price, he said.

The city also has tentatively laid out a shuttle route for game days from the stadium to the city-owned parking garage and lots at the former Finney State Office Building at Broadway and William, Wadle said. That complex has about 900 spaces.

One potential problem is that much of the parking space near the stadium is also prime parking for the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center. That could mean as many as three big events could be running simultaneously, especially on weekend afternoons.

Wolfe said such events are scheduled well in advance so the city will know they’re coming.

“We’ve been able to handle large events at Intrust and things like that adequately, so I think that with some planning we can get to that point,” he said.

Apps that can make and pay for parking reservations, currently being developed for Wichita, will help ease some of the parking pressures, city officials said.

Another potential trouble spot is that the west side of stadium will be directly across the street from a Delano neighborhood of single-family homes. Residents have expressed concerns about baseball fans taking up all the street parking in front of their homes.

Advisory board member Rebecca Robertson suggested that those streetside spaces could be reserved for the neighborhood residents only, like she saw on a trip to Fayetteville, Ark.

“They were marked and there was like a number in that parking space, and if you did not have the right credentials to park in that spot, you would know it,” she said. “And I thought, that would be the perfect solution for Delano.”

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.