SMA’s Transportation panel: Moderator John Beattie, stadium manager, Arsenal Football Club; Anthony Squeo, VP of large venue operations, SP+ Gameday; Jarrod Fresquez, chief evangelist and founding member, Parkhub; Mark Mock, Impark; Michael Rescigno, director of operations, Impark; and Chris Prisk, senior traffic engineer, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services.
How to capture the most revenue from the parking component of the venue operation, sponsorships with ride-hailing companies, using historical data to help parking congestion, and even a future with driverless cars all took up part of the discussion on a panel focusing on transportation at the Stadium Managers Association Conference, held Feb. 4-7 at Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
Fans often say in post-event surveys that parking hassles are their No. 1 gripe, said Anthony Squeo, VP of large venue operations at SP+ Gameday. To alleviate some of the issues associated with parking, Squeo and his associates created the “know before you go” program, which encourages fans to think about and pre-buy parking in an effort to avoid fans trying to push into the venue and pay at the parking gate, all at the same time.
“Sell your parking in advance and give them a place to go,” he said. “We like to get people to buy their parking in advance so that we know exactly when they are coming and where they are coming from. Advance information is important and moves the flow of parking substantially.”
He cited a case study of Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. “We asked them to change their ticketing and include parking information,” he said. “Parking was sold online, at a lower rate than on show nights, and we increased online sales by 800 percent.”
Another aspect of “know before you go” is putting correct GPS information out there so people can avoid streets that are closed or have been turned one-way for the event, he said.
“It is critical that your facilities have the correct address and the correct coordinates on the internet maps,” he stressed, mentioning that previous to his company working with Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the venue had only one gate where maps directed drivers to go. “We went to Google and Waze and had them add another five gates.”
“Signage is also very important,” he advised stadium managers. “It needs to be consistent, and the message has to be clear.”
Jarrod Fresquez, chief evangelist and founding member of Parkhub, was concerned with the time and hassle associated with cash payments. “Cash takes longer than swiping a credit card,” he said. “Plus we don’t get good data from cash customers.”
Our goal is faster parking, happier guests and more revenue, he said.
Fresquez also discussed how many venues are losing revenue by not constantly checking parking passes. “We found over 600 invalid passes at one facility. Either the passes were out of date or forgeries,” he said. “That meant $75,000 in lost revenue.”
Mark Mock of Impark cautioned, “The fan experience starts in the parking lot” and suggested looking at key performance indicators that use historical data.
“Analyze last year’s data and find out how long it it takes to complete a transaction and how fast it takes to get through a lane,” he said. “You can add cashiers, or put two workers in a lane.”
Mock also pointed out that egress was just as important as ingress. “Many people focus on getting the fans into the venue but ignore the aggravation fans experience when they leave and it takes an hour and a half to get out,” he said. “Use your analytics to find out the pressure points and find ways to alleviate it.”
Mock’s colleague, Micahael Rescigno, director of operations for Impark, said monitoring social media was another way to improve the parking experience for fans.
“Look to social media for sensitive data” Rescigno said. “If you read the posts and fans are griping about how long it takes to get into the parking facility, find ways to make that operation run smoother and quicker. If fans are complaining about a pothole in the road, fix it.”
Rescigno said that Yelp was his best resource and that the platform also provided extra value for venue operators who paid close attention to reviews of the facilities’parking.
“Fans often try to help each other out and point out places they parked for free, like empty lots on a Sunday night at a mall close by,” he noticed. Rescigno’s way to “recapture that revenue” is to call the stakeholder of that off-venue lot and let them know that people are parking there and urge them to have that fan towed or ticketed.
Chris Prisk, senior traffic engineer at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, said the advent of ride-hailing services was both a blessing and a curse. “The downside is less parking onsite,” Prisk said. “The upside is happier fans.”
Along with the dawn of ride-hailing come new challenges: “You’ve got all these cars lining up now to drop off the guests and smart venues are creating lanes and dedicated areas for the ridesharing companies to drop off the fans,” Prisk said. “Venues also need to be aware that now they also have an influx of cars coming back at the end of the game to pick the fans up. This is something new and something to plan for.”
“Uber and Lyft are not going away and ridesharing as a way to get to and from venues are only gaining momentum,” he said.
Prisk also strongly advocated making sponsorship deals. “Making a deal is free,” he explained. “The ridesharing companies only want promotion, traffic views and monthly data in return. But don’t expect data from the ridesharing companies to be reciprocal. They keep their data to themselves.”
Prisk also urged facilities to make deals with mapping services like Waze and Google Maps.
“Getting them onboard is crucial,” he said. “By working with these platforms you can advise them in advance about where the specific dropoff and pickup lots are located and have the maps take the drivers to those locations. You can let them know about road closures, and you can let them know about streets that have been designated as one-way.”
None of the parking experts are concerned about a scenario when driverless cars and car-sharing become the norm.
Fresquez thinks that driverless cars are “a lot further away then people are talking about” and he and many of the fans “like to take their own cars, and changing that is a long way down the road.”
“When a driverless car can drop off a barbecue and food and drinks for tailgating, I’ll worry about it,” Rescigno said.