Parking problems, plaguing patients at the University of Utah Hospital, were greatly alleviated Tuesday when 650 free, covered patient and visitor parking spaces with covered access to the hospital became available.

The hospital's new 1,000 car parking terrace also provides 350 employee parking slots, bringing the total number of parking spaces around the center to more than 3,500.To celebrate the new parking spaces, low-octane punch and automobile-shaped cookies were served and special key chains handed out in the hospital's lobby Tuesday.

According to hospital administrator George Belsey, the terrace cost approximately $11 million. That included the cost of moving major utility lines to the hospital and building a huge crib wall to support the hill west of the terrace.

Belsey said the terrace was paid for by the University Hospital through operating funds and bonding. No state tax monies were used.