When the new Golden 1 Center opens its doors in October of this year, several thousand people will flood into downtown Sacramento. They’ll bring their friends, their Kings jerseys, their money and perhaps most worryingly for those who work along busy streets in the area — their cars.
Though Sacramento has taken steps to provide easy public transport for the new arena, such as an overhauled light rail system, there will still be plenty of game-watchers, concert-goers and event attendees who commute into the city, and they’re going to need somewhere to park.
Not to worry though, according to Sacramento’s City Parking Manager Matt Eierman, who says it’s not going to be as big an issue as many local residents and business owners think. Though it may look like a recipe for vehicular fiasco, in the tightly-knitted spaces and lots of downtown Sacramento, Eierman says there are actually plenty of parking spots to go around. He and his team have been working, in the quiet background of the arena noise, on plans to help attendees navigate, find and even reserve a parking space for as long as they need one for.
“People perceive there’s not enough parking,” Eierman says. But according to the city’s data, he and his team have digitally complied over several months, there are actually more than “21,000 spaces within a quarter mile or half mile of the arena.”
Moreover, incentives to park in garages or lots, instead of on the street, will free up spaces for downtown businesses patrons. And if arena-goers are saved the hassle of finding a place to park, they’re more likely to come early, stay in the area and spend money at the surrounding businesses, he says. Eierman also points out that event parking at night will be far less competitive than it would be during daytime hours. “After 5 p.m., the workers go home,” he says, and that frees up an awful lot of parking spaces.
The question, then, is “How do we get [attendees] to the parking garages?” says Eierman.
Through a multitude of ways, apparently. More than 4,000 smart meters (which allow customers to pay with coins or a card) have already popped up throughout downtown. You can also pay with your smart phone for some, and Eierman says that feature will be expanding to more meters soon, as the pilot program went “very well.”
Additionally, the city is working with private entities to manage their parking, Eierman says. SP+ Parking owns several lots near the new arena. But regional manager Victor Alastair says he can’t talk about their plans, as they’ve already submitted a proposal to the city, asking for help with parking management during events. Other private parking companies in the direct area include Priority Parking Services and the Motor Inn Garage, neither of which could be reached for comment. But the majority of parking spaces in the area still belong overwhelmingly to the City of Sacramento.
Linda Tucker, Media & Communications Manager for the City of Sacramento, says her team has been working with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership to make sure businesses in the area are prepared for what’s coming.
She says they’ve done “a lot of outreach to work with them and let them know what [the city’s] plans are.”
The city garages are getting a major upgrade in systems, too. The current park-and-pay garage systems are more than 14 years old, Eierman says. The new ones, the first of which are scheduled to be installed in April of this year at the Memorial garage, will have state-of-the-art reservation systems, and will be able to tell drivers which levels do and do not have available spots. It’s this technology that Eierman says he hopes will help relieve a lot of the congestion in and around the arena on event nights. If you can reserve a parking spot at a specific location, you’ll have more time to enjoy the evening, rather than driving around in circles.
“We want you to know you have a space,” he says.
And to the city, getting people in is just as important as getting people out. They’ll be combining their digital parking data of every parking space in the city with third-party app developers to provide information about street closures and available parking spaces — even right down to where you left your car, if you forget.
Eierman hopes that, by making it easier to park, the whole night will go smoother. “We want to make sure the overall event is good and goes well, and that people get to their parking space,” he says.