This is what we wanted for downtown: basketball, opera, an expo, nightlife and tens of thousands of people enjoying life.
Now, where’s everybody supposed to park?
In the four and a half years since the Sprint Center opened downtown, regulars have learned the ropes about parking, not to mention block closings and one-way streets.
But we want visitors and semi-regulars to have an easy time, too.
City officials, the Police Department, the Downtown Council and the Convention and Visitors Association all say they are working to make the Kansas City experience a positive one.
“The message we’re putting out is to come early,” said Bruce Campbell, parking czar for the city. “And know that the closer you get to the Sprint Center, you can expect to pay more for parking.”
Municipal garages charge $10 for event parking. Private lots may charge $20 or more. The city is advising people to look for posted prices and make sure they understand the terms to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Campbell said Standard Parking operates most of the non-city garages downtown and they will have operators manning the entrance points to direct people to other lots if theirs is full.
The Downtown Council’s 60 ambassadors, aka bumblebees for their yellow and black uniforms, will also be available to offer directions or assistance.
“They are out in force to help greet people and point them where they need to go,” said Mike Hurd, director of marketing for the Downtown Council.
Many downtown venues have big events this week and weekend. The Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship is at the Sprint Center, the Big 12 Women’s games are at Municipal Auditorium, the Greater Kansas City Auto Show is at Bartle Hall, and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday is presenting “Nixon in China” and dedicating its new pipe organ.
That’s a lot of people, but there are more than 22,000 parking spaces downtown including the new 1,000-space garage at the Kauffman Center.
Roughly half of them are within three to four blocks of the Sprint Center and the rest within six to seven blocks. In addition to lots, “there’s a ton of street parking available,” Campbell said.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is also expanding its MAX bus service downtown during the basketball tournament. There will be more frequent stops as well as additional service before and after the men’s games.
Street closings will add to the congestion: Grand Boulevard in front of the Sprint Center, 14th Street from Walnut Street to Grand Boulevard and Walnut between 13th and 14th streets.
Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté says people heading downtown should plan an alternative route around those choke points and give themselves extra time. He said an additional 40 to 60 police officers are being assigned downtown and will be on foot, bicycles and horseback as well as in cars.
On his blog, Forté advises people not to leave valuables in plain sight when parking their cars. That includes GPS devices and even coins in the cup holder.
The city has 14 million reasons to want to make a good impression. That’s the anticipated economic impact in dollars from the Big 12 tournament.
In addition to a downloadable map of parking lots, the Downtown Council has created an online dining map that is also being distributed at hotels and other high-traffic areas.
“We’re bracing for a great weekend,” Hurd said.