With the new Baylor football stadium opening in August, downtown Waco’s about to have a lot more cars on game days. Businesses are hoping to capture some of the extra foot traffic. But the city is still trying to figure out how to get everyone from downtown to the stadium.
The new McLane stadium will seat 45,000 people, but it’ll only have 2,000 parking spaces on site. Baylor says it’ll have an additional 5,000 spaces around campus, but there’ll still be between 4 and 6,000 spots that’ll have to be found around Waco.
Brian Nicholson is the associate vice president for facility, planning and construction at Baylor.
"The last thing to figure out really is the city and downtown," Nicholson said. Ours is pretty straightforward I mean the university we obviously own our lots, we own the streets on the inside of campus so we have a flexibility. So I think that the last piece here really is how do we get the folks that want to park downtown and in the city and on elm, how do we get them to the stadium?"
Right now the city is planning to shuttle fans using six Waco Transit buses. Fans will be able to pick up a shuttle at 5th Street and Austin Avenue. Planners say there’ll be a bus every five to ten minutes and the buses will use a dedicated lane to get to the stadium. Brian Ginsburg is the chairman of the downtown Public Improvement District. He says downtown Waco will be a great place to park…but really he wants people to shop and eat.
"I want you to come downtown and I want you to ride the shuttle or somebody’s shuttle and get over there but I want you to stay over here and be entertained—we’re thinking concerts, tailgating things like that," Ginsburg said.
Some business owners voiced concerns over losing parking spaces that would-be patrons might otherwise use. Ginsburg says one way to fix that is setting up a voucher system for businesses that use city lots. For example—Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant sits next to a city-owned lot. The city could charge $20 to park there on game days, but let Ninfa’s validate their customers’ parking slips to make it free.
But downtown Waco might not be the only sought after parking spot. Wannika Muhammad lives in Olive Heights, the neighborhood just North of the Baylor stadium.
"Take like my husband and I we’ll have parking and eventually we have a stadium food court idea where we’ll have food carts and have different exotic things for people passing through to the stadium," Muhammad said.
Ginsburg says no matter where a fan ends up parking downtown—it’s going to be better than in the other football towns.
If you’ve ever been to big games, UT? You’d walk a mile, you’ll walk 45 minutes to an hour and that’s just the price you pay for going to a big game," Ginsburg said.