Guest Commentary

Parking at Wichita’s new ballpark puts too much burden on neighborhood, businesses

We’re getting a new ballpark in Wichita and a lot of people are excited about it — and they should be. But they may not be as excited when they can’t find a place to park.

There has been talk about a more-urban mindset of needing to walk a little bit when attending an event downtown, but ever since the era of the automobile began Wichita has been a very vehicle-centric city. Such a change in mindset doesn’t happen overnight, so until it occurs we have to accommodate people who drive to do things. Plus, the team owner says he’s expecting to attract attendees from the whole region, not just Wichita. That means we have to include parking as an element to this and every project we do.

When it comes to parking, the numbers just don’t add up for the new ballpark. Intrust Bank Arena seats about 15,000, and there are more than 6,000 public parking spaces in the arena district and Old Town within easy walking distance.

In contrast, the new ballpark will seat about 10,000, and up to 20,000 for non-athletic events, more than double the number of the old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Where Lawrence-Dumont had more than 800 spaces, the new ballpark has only about 140, a portion of which will be reserved.

There are already issues with parking in the Delano District. As the area continues to grow and develop, adequate parking is among the concerns of business owners and residents alike. Residents are concerned with streets being flooded with parking by baseball attendees and business owners are worried that the parking they do have will be taken by attendees of games or events at the stadium.

At this years St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the RiverFest fireworks shows, we got our first taste of the parking issues we will soon face. The parking lot at the old stadium had been demolished and as a result the side streets were packed all the way west past Franklin Elementary School, which is about 1 mile away. There were people illegally parking in ways that blocked access to pedestrian and wheelchair ramps for the sidewalks, fire hydrants and private driveways. The public parking and much of the private parking which the local businesses rely on for their customers was filled — and considering a baseball game will last longer than a fireworks show or a parade, that is a huge concern.

Parking plans that were presented as part of the stadium plan seem to put the parking burden on adjacent residential neighborhoods and businesses. Is that fair to them?

The new stadium secures a major regional destination attraction for Wichita that will catalyze an engaging, walkable riverfront. Shouldn’t we make sure there is enough parking for the visitors?

The unaddressed concerns and inadequate planning with regard to parking are a couple of the reasons why I filed to run for City Council. The lack of foresight and minimal response to the parking issue doesn’t bode well for other upcoming projects, such as the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan.

The city seems to have all but dropped the parking issue publicly, but the problem isn’t going to go away. There was talk in late spring about provisions for additional parking being planned, but no word since. I encourage the city leaders to re-examine the issue and consider those opportunities, and soon, because games are scheduled to begin in approximately seven months.

Christopher Parisho is president of the Delano Neighborhood Association and a candidate for Wichita City Council District 4