By Abigail Loop
Despite the 45,000 people set to fill up McLane Stadium this weekend, parking will not be a concern on game day, said Drew Vincent, a member of the Waco Downtown Development Cooperation.
Vincent said he believes game day will go smoothly because of broad parking options, although it will take time to adjust to the parking changes.
“What we have is 1,900 free parking spaces downtown,” Vincent said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. This is a big thing, we’re going to have to get habits down.”
To ease the process of parking and getting to McLane Stadium, downtown Waco will offer free shuttles to visitors. Shuttles will pick passengers up on 5th Street and Austin Avenue and take them near Buzzard Billy’s where they can then walk under I-35 to get to the stadium.
Shuttle routes and the parking expansion downtown will result in the closure of Austin Avenue from 4th Street to 8th Street.
Select areas near McLane Stadium will have paid parking options, which include the stadium lot, select Baylor garages and lots by private sectors.
Road closures will also occur on Baylor’s campus at University Parks Drive, Dutton Avenue and Speight Avenue.
However, students on Baylor campus will be able to park in faculty and visitor parking in the East Campus Parking Garage and the interior of campus will be available to students after 3 p.m. each Friday of a home football game.
People parking downtown and taking a shuttle to the stadium will also be able to take advantage of a smartphone app made available by Waco Transit called “Ride Systems”. The app shows Waco Transit buses specific to their game day shuttle routes.
Vincent said vendors will be stationed along the bus pick-up route and he hopes having resources like the shuttle will make game days run even better as well as give visitors a unique Waco experience.
“When I went to Baylor, I didn’t know a lot of the stuff happening downtown.” Vincent said. “We hope this will be beneficial to the downtown area and that it becomes more of a talking matter.”
B Joy Bijoux Boutique owner Brenda Atchison, said she’s expecting game day to have a positive effect for downtown businesses like hers, which is located on what will be the closed-off section of Austin Ave.
“I think everything will go smoothly,” Atchison said. “There’s an air of excitement. We’re a vintage shop and we’re going to have an old fashioned popcorn machine ready for people and also some freestyle modeling.”
Atchison said although this would be new for everyone she still thinks the logistics look good.
However, not all business owners feel this way.
Jhonas Theill, owner of Suit City, located along the same segment of closed-off Austin Avenue, said he believes all the parking downtown will have a negative effect on his business.
“I can only speak for my customers,” Theill said. “Most are above the age of 35 and proximity is important to them. I believe the parking would be an impediment to my clients. Restaurants will have a positive outcome with game day, but retail won’t.”
Theill said he’s hoping to be wrong and will keep his fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
“I hope everyone who comes to game day downtown will need a new suit,” he said jokingly. “In the spirit of community, I want to add my store to a very successful game day.”
Further information regarding parking plans downtown and at Baylor can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/students/gameday/index.php?id=867027 or http://www.chisholmcrossing.com/game day/.