They're easily taken for granted, and with nothing to brag about but a few colored stripes, they're anything but exciting.
But now that 5,300 parking spaces have emerged as the hinge of a $10 million deal between Sandy and Real Salt Lake, they certainly are interesting especially to nearby businesses and residents who have suddenly become the "haves" next to the "have nots."
By the time Real Salt Lake opens its doors this fall for a new season in a new arena, the stadium will have ample parking but it won't all be on-site. Some people will have to park about a 15-minute walk away from the stadium, or take shuttles from longer distances, and that's making the neighbors nervous.
"There's no question that, being right across the street from the stadium, that this would be an attractive place to park much more attractive than being bused from another parking venue a mile away," said Jordan Commons property manager Jim Derrick. "But we fear that if we let the camel's nose in the tent, then nobody can control it."
Real Salt Lake has so far obtained 4,400 of the necessary 5,300 spaces through contracting surrounding lots, purchasing some property and piecing together a parking puzzle that stretches north of 9000 South and past 10000 South. The soccer franchise is busy arranging shuttles and plotting traffic patterns and it is ahead of schedule to meet a midsummer deadline. But so far, Real has not determined how to deter its patrons from parking on nearby residential streets or in parking lots that belong to neighboring businesses.
That's making Derrick nervous. Jordan Commons has enough parking spaces to fill half of Real's need, but at times, the popular movie/restaurant complex is bursting at its own parking seams. When a big blockbuster comes, or it's just a busy Saturday night, there's no leeway to accommodate any soccer fans who don't feel like walking or shuttling to their appropriately parked cars.
The South Towne Exposition Center, also across the street from the stadium, has the same issue. The Expo Center's occasional parking problems were part of the reason Sandy is requiring Real to provide a parking plan 120 days before opening day, according to Sandy's assistant community development director, Nick Duerksen.
"We've visited arenas across the state and surrounding states, and we've seen how they deal with the parking," Duerksen said. "One of the things we came to the conclusion of is it actually is better to have the parking in various locations rather than one location."
Real approached the Expo Center about possibly sharing the center's 1,700 spots, but scheduling conflicts would make that difficult, said Erin Litvak, Salt Lake County's community services director.
Real will have more than 1,000 public parking spaces within a 5-minute walk of the stadium when it opens this fall, and Real officials say it won't be a problem to tie down 900 more spaces in the meantime. Within two years, Real will have another 1,000 spaces within a five-minute walk, and a new parking structure could be built in coming years.
"What's most important is making sure that, at the end of the day, our customers have a good experience," said Real project manager Dave Kerschner. "We want our fans to enjoy the game, and enjoy getting in and enjoy getting out. For that reason, parking is a big deal to us, because parking is a substantial part of the experience and we want to make sure that it's done right."
The Sandy Planning Commission voted Thursday to rezone about 4 acres of land to the north of the stadium to accommodate the soccer company's parking plans. Real will have to tear down structures that are currently on the property, then plans to allow fans to park in the area. Real does not plan to pave the area, officials said.
The rezone will have to be voted on by the Sandy City Council to become official.The Planning Commission will hear more about Real's parking plans at its meeting Feb. 7.
Contributing: Rebecca Palmer
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