I don’t want it, especially if I can’t park out front

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

That’s by far the most frequent reason I keep hearing as to why everyone in the city should vote no on the new events center in Grand Junction: Where, for the love of all monoliths, will everyone park?

Let’s forget for the moment this argument indicates the hassle of parking would mean whatever event at the new events center the dissenter is attending would be a sellout or close to it — which defeats the second most oft-heard argument no one will attend the events — because there’d be nowhere to park anywhere near the center, and just go to the direct argument: There would be nowhere to park during events.

I’ll first address this through personal experience at which I’ve hinted in my headline. My first job was at a small, downtown men’s store in Monroe, Mich. — a rural town with myriad similarities to Grand Junction in terms of city and county population, a neat little main street and a mall on the outskirts. The main difference was that Monroe sat in the middle of the automobile industry, although given how that’s gone the past 40 years, that isn’t a plus like it used to be — which I will use as an analogy to our old shopping “destination” that no longer exists.

All of that aside, would you like to know the main complaint we heard about downtown in the 20-plus years I worked or went back to help at my old store? You got it. “Where do I park? I’ve discovered over the years this particular adage is unique to small towns. It’s as if people who shop in downtown stores have an unalienable right to park in front of their favorite place of business. It simply isn’t possible, nor should it be, if downtown is a true, exciting destination like it was in Birmingham, Mich., where one couldn’t park within four or five blocks on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.

So let’s expand on “parking on demand” a bit more. There used to be a sign at the Grand Junction Athletic Club that I loved that said something like this: As Americans, we’re dedicated to physical fitness and parking as close to the entrance as possible. Let’s debunk both of these. Dedicated to physical fitness is limited to the small percentage actually dedicated to physical fitness. I know we’re not as a country, particularly not being part of that small percentage other than in my mind. As for parking close, ask yourself, other than downtown or at some government building is this really something we demand? Let me explain.

I’ll do so first with some extreme examples. Ever been to Mile High? The Pepsi Center? Anyone ever just pull up front and park? I don’t think so. Now you can say, “Well, if you pay you can.” Fair enough. And when the events center gets popular with its shows, think that won’t happen here? And before you say that the Broncos are also popular, just remember, people pay money and park miles away to see the Lions and Raiders as well. I could also remind all of us just how using the parking garage and any hotel on the Vegas strip gets us so close to all the action.

So let’s go a little smaller. First off, the shows at the events center we will be worried about parking at will occur on weekends or after hours, when parking tends to be more open. I can recall just last year being at the Los Angeles Convention center for a cheer and dance competition on a Saturday and Sunday. Guess what I had to do? Pay 25 bucks and park about five blocks away — and it wasn’t because the Lakers were in town. How about another cheer and dance competition in something similar to what’s on the ballot? At the First Bank Center in Broomfield, parking was free and in the center’s garage — with about a quarter mile walk back to the arena. And the same goes for all of the event centers I go to with my kids for dance in every city.

How about right here? When you go to the mall and it’s busy — remember, we’re talking about attending an event that has 5,000 people at the new center — how close do you park to the entrance unless you get really lucky? And that’s a dead-on analogy for going downtown. Better yet, how close do you park for the fireworks at Suplizio or Parade of Lights or farmer’s market downtown? Those events attract as many or more folks — and take away parking spots — than the 5,000 or 7,000 we may be talking about for a popular event at the center.

The fact is, we choose to park and walk if it’s something we want to go to, and do it all the time. As for attendance, I can see an argument about the predictions for hockey. But even if that sport only brings in half the people projected, it doesn’t affect the extra 50,000 or 60,000 people spending $300 a day who will come visit Grand Junction for events. Just do the math. And never underestimate the power of entrepreneurship to meet the many needs and opportunities surrounding the events center.

Which Monroe and other Rust Belt cities also have.