Baseball and Parking
Together Like Hot Dogs and Beer
By John Van Horn
(At this writing, the Dodgers had a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. If they do, at least a few days in October will be busy ones for Anthony Squeo. Editor)
"Tell me the time a person arrived, and I can most likely find their car.” Anthony Squeo, manager of parking operations at Dodger Stadium, talks about the new event parking for Major League Baseball’s Dodgers.
“We have moved from the concept of letting people park wherever they want to a ‘theme park’ approach of showing them where to park. It makes parking much easier at Dodger Stadium.”
Squeo, Senior Manager for Special Events for Standard Parking has 13 years of event -parking experience. He arrived at the Dodgers just over four years ago when major changes were in the offing for parking at the stadium.
“The first season we were there, we observed the current operating plan. We were forced to redesign it to create much needed spaces and to ease the flow in and out of the stadium. This was both for current parking issues and for future development. To date, we were able to add 3,000 parking spaces, which brought us in at over 20,000 total.
“In the next few years, new facilities on our site are going to take up some of the parking area,” Squeo said, and although parking structures will be built, during their construction, parking will be constantly evolving.
“Admittedly, we had problems in the beginning. We, as professional parking operators, worked with a consulting firm to determine the best operational plan,” Squeo said. “We had to make adjustments daily until we got it just where we wanted. After a short while, things started smoothing out. Anytime there is a major change, there will be some confusion.”
The change was major. Before the new parking plans at Dodger Stadium, fans parked wherever they wanted. With the new plan, they park where they are directed, and that location is based on their time of arrival and from which of the four entrance plazas they come in.
“We have had great support from Dodger owner Frank McCourt. His commitment to this project and the entire stadium is unbelievable,” Squeo said. “(McCourt) spends hours with us in the Parking Command Center watching traffic and giving his input, suggestions and support.
“The Parking Command Center was built for the sole purpose of managing traffic and parking,” Squeo said. “There are six flat-screen monitors and controls for 62 pan/tilt/zoom cameras strategically located throughout the complex. Squeo can see his entire domain and react quickly to issues almost before they arise.
“I can see all the parking operations and direct my staff, as well as the 33 LA DOT officers outside the stadium, to adjust traffic flows as needed. Additionally, we can ensure that fans are made aware of any issues immediately. The local radio station KABC actually broadcasts traffic for the LA area and specifically Dodger Stadium on game days from within my control center,” Squeo said. “They tell folks what’s going on as soon as we know about it.”
The high-tech command center was built with windows opening directly onto the concourse so fans going to their seats can look in and see the investment the Dodgers have made in parking controls.
“We also know exactly how many cars we have in the facility at all times with a state-of-the-art custom-built car counting and revenue control system.”
Since some fans buy their parking as a part of their season tickets or when they buy their parking online through Ticketmaster, there are scanners that are on line in each cashier booth that scan the pre-issued permits and ensure their validity.
“The key person in our operation is the traffic sorter,” Squeo said. “He or she stands in the lanes directly after the cashier booths and must almost instantly be able to tell whether or not a car is general parking, preferred parking, VIP or ADA. (The traffic sorter) then directs them to the proper lane. If he or she misses, and they seldom do, it can cause some unwinding to have to take place.”
“We are extremely pleased with the way parking has evolved over the past couple of years,” said Lon Rosenberg, VP of Stadium Operations for the Dodgers. “It’s been a challenge, but a necessary one. And the Dodgers are concerned about the fans. Every day we track how long it takes to empty the lots. And every day the owner is interested in that number. He is always looking to make it a bit better, saying, '...and shave off another minute or two.'"
Squeo’s day starts about five to six hours before the first pitch. His office is inside mobile structures at the edge of the parking lots. His staff meets there before every game to sign out equipment, uniforms and tickets, and to have a daily briefing before they head out to their posts. By the time the gates open, cars are lined up for what seems to be blocks long.
“The traffic depends on whom we are playing, the day of the week and, of course, how well the Dodgers are doing. I can usually, based on experience, tell how many cars we will have come in and which entrance plazas will be heavily used,” Squeo said.
“Fans are interesting to watch. Many come at the third inning and leave by the seventh. Others arrive an hour before the game and stay until the last out. Often if the game is one-sided, exits will start early. I have seen the game turn around in the last inning. A lot of folks missed the ending to a great game.”
Parking at Dodger Stadium will be a challenge for Squeo and his 150-plus staff members over the next few years, as the Dodgers continue working on the “Next 50” plan, which includes a new facility behind the centerfield fence and multiple parking structures around the stadium.
A Fan’s Point of View
Diehard fan Ken Brown of Torrance has been a Dodger season ticket holder for 28 years and has been parking there just as long.
“Parking was easy before the change,” Brown said. “You just parked near the entrance where your seats were, and that was it. When the game was over, you drove out.
“However, the new system took some getting used to. Where you park now relates to the direction you come from, not where your tickets are,” Brown said. “Therefore, you have to know in advance the best way to approach the stadium. If you come in the wrong entrance, you may have to walk a long way to your seats. We actually drive further than necessary to get to the stadium, but it allows us to park closer to our seats.
“People take time to adjust to change. After all, my dad and I had been driving to Chavez Ravine (where Dodger Stadium is located) for nearly 30 years. Suddenly, we were asked to do something different. We adjusted, but a lot of people didn’t.
“What this means is that after the game, there are a lot of people walking through the parking lots, getting to their cars. Some are walking a long way. They stop traffic crossing streets and hold up the cars exiting. It takes longer to get out now than it did before, and my observation is that the pedestrians cause most of that hold up,” Brown said.
“If I could make one suggestion to the parking operators, it is that they should actually cut down on the number of traffic directors on exit. Frankly, it seems to me that they tend to slow down the process.
They will stop traffic when only a couple of people are waiting to cross, holding up hundreds of cars. At a minimum, perhaps they should get some different training.”
“I understand why they made the changes,” Brown said. “Times change, they want to provide a better experience to their fans, and they need the space. It was different, over 50 years ago, when my dad walked to see the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.”
Full disclosure: Ken Brown is the husband of
PT Art Director, Shelly Brown.
Article Abstract from October, 2008