Council to discuss Walton Arts Center event parking and gated lot violations

Staff photo
Officials say a change is needed to facilitate mass exodus from the main Walton Arts Center parking lot after performances, something that the current parking systems are not designed to handle.

Update: The council unanimously passed both of these issues.

Post-event traffic congestion at the Walton Arts Center parking lot will be one of two discussion items related to paid parking at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Arts center officials have requested that the council consider an event parking option that would provide some relief to the slow moving traffic leaving the lot after large-scale events.

The key to the scenario, officials said, would be the ability to move back and forth between event parking and the regular hourly parking model.

If approved, the operational details would still need to be worked out, but the following key points would likely remain:

  • The model would be used for all events when 600 or more patrons are expected to attend the arts center for any type of event
  • Event parking would begin at 4 p.m. for evening shows and at 12 noon for matinee shows
  • The model would remain in effect either until the lot is full or until 30 minutes past curtain time
  • The cost per vehicle would a flat fee of $5
  • Anyone could use the lot whether attending an event or not, but would pay the event parking fee instead of the regular hourly fee
  • Event parking would be handled fully by the Walton Arts Genter staff contracted for parking services at no additional cost to the current contract for this budget year

According to city officials, there are multiple options being considered at this time, some which include purchasing additional equipment and/or software. Agenda documents indicate that the current budget has $31,000 remaining for improvements in the Entertainment District Parking program.

The Walton Arts Center Management expects event parking to be utilized for 120 to 150 events per calendar year.

Sneaking through the gates

Another parking-related proposal to be considered Tuesday night is to make it a violation of city ordinance to exit a gated lot without paying. As it currently stands, sneaking out of a lot is considered a class A misdemeanor, which Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor believes is excessive given the infraction.

Tabor said when officers catch somebody either going around the gate or squeezing through behind the car in front of them, the only option is to charge them with theft.

“Theft in Arkansas is a class A misdemeanor which means they actually have to go to jail, get photographed and get fingerprinted,” said Tabor. “I think we all thought that was a little harsh.”

If the proposal is approved, violators could instead be issued a citation and a fine.