Florida Gulf Coast University men’s basketball is causing traffic headaches on campus.
On evenings prior to men’s basketball home games, many spectators can be seen walking to Alico Arena from as far as Parking Garage 1 and the Cohen Center. “We need 1,500 parking spots. We simply don’t have them,” said Chief of Police Steven Moore.” To make the current parking work, we must average 3.5 (spectators) per car.”
Some FGCU students residing in North Lake Village housing do not welcome the parking issues.
“When I came home from work at midnight, I had to park in a different neighborhood,” said Maria Paredes, a freshman anthropology student. “As a girl, it is scary to walk from the Groves to Building A at midnight.”
Sophomore marketing student Anne Marie Baccash said it took her 15 minutes to drive from Lutgert Hall to the Cohen Center traffic light on a night she was not attending a game.
“I was only able to park because another student had just left,” Baccash said.
In October, FGCU announced a new parking policy aimed at solving parking issues for its home men’s basketball games. Under the new policy, students living in residence halls closest to Alico Arena must move their cars three hours prior to games. The Recreation Center and Aquatics Center also close prior to games.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised. There has been good compliance,” Moore said. “This helps, but doesn’t solve the problem. It is a work in progress.” But what solves the problem?
“We would like (a) parking garage built tomorrow,” FGCU Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh said. “We all wish we had a remote place with plenty of parking.” Hosting basketball games at offcampus facilities such as Germain Arena is a possibility, Kavanagh said.
“That may be something that happens to us down the road,” Kavanagh said. “You’d have to be in a position where every game is already sold out, and you didn’t have any capacity.”
According to FGCU’s Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan, the University indicated it planned to acquire $12 million for an additional parking garage, referred to as Parking Garage 6. The funding request is for the 2017-2018 academic year. “Parking Garage 6 would be located in North Lake Village,” said Tom Mayo, director of facilities planning. According to state law, funding for the facility would have to come from outside sources, meaning University funding could not be used to construct the parking garage. Sophomore marketing student Caitlin Karcher said game day traffic played a role in her decision to live in North Lake Village.
“I chose to live on the west side of North Lake Village partially because I knew game day traffic would be an issue,” said Karcher.
Despite the traffic congestion, Dr. James Rollo, FGCU vice president for Student Affairs, remains optimistic. “Students should feel blessed to attend a University where parking for athletics events is a legitimate concern,” Rollo said. In March, FGCU Men’s Basketball became the lowest-seeded team to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, sending FGCU into the national spotlight during a historic run. Sharp increases in attendance have been seen, and Alico Arena was filled to a record capacity of 4,633 at a Nov. 23 game against Ave Maria.
“It feels more of a hassle to hear of a game happening, rather than it being exciting, because I think about the parking,” Baccash said. “If parking wasn’t a hassle, I think we’d all be more excited about a game happening.”