PAWTUCKET – The developers of a new soccer stadium in downtown Pawtucket say they have taken a deep dive into creating a parking plan that works for the destination facility as they prepare to go before the City Planning Commission for a key hearing on the project next week.
Representatives for Fortuitous Partners will present to the Planning Commission at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, July 20, for a preliminary plan review of phase 1 of the $300 million Tidewater Landing project on the Seekonk River, including an 11,000-seat multi-use stadium with associated public access and parking.
Dan Kroeber, managing partner with Brett Johnson’s Fortuitous Partners and director of development, said this week that the seating for the stadium to start out its life has always been in the range of 7,500-11,000, with a long-term goal of expanding to 15,000 seats, but a more finalized design shooting for 11,000 seats has “come into focus now.”
Study documents submitted to the city show multi-pronged plans for addressing parking and traffic challenges on the site.
A long-term parking study identifies 1,248 spots on the site once fully developed with the phase 2 event center, and another 2,357 public parking spots identified in the area of the stadium. With peak demand for stadium events at that point estimated at 4,500, that leaves a deficit of about 1,000 spots absolute maximum that the developers plan to address in other ways, including agreements with owners of private lots in the area. The 4,500 spots assumes auto-centric parking demand and is on the very high end of estimates, according to the developers.
On a shorter-term basis, an interim parking analysis shows simpler prospects for parking, including on the gravel lot on the 45 Division St. parcel that will eventually hold the event center, which is still several years down the road, according to Kroeber.
The interim parking management plan, prepared by Kroeber last month, focuses on the soccer stadium’s first year of operation after it opens in the spring of 2023, highlights strategies for getting attendees out of their personal vehicles and decreasing congestion by expanding and incentivizing public transit options and promoting the use of ride and bike share.
A study showed more than 2,300 public parking spaces within just over a half-mile, states the report, or a 12-minute walk. Kroeber told The Breeze on Monday that a 12-minute walk is one many fans have shown they’re willing to undertake for special events as long as the process of finding parking isn’t a frustrating one. A distance of a quarter-mile is generally seen as an acceptable distance in research studies, he says in his report. A shuttle service is planned to circle the downtown and travel to the area of McCoy Stadium to pick up those who park there, he noted.
What’s great about the stadium use is that most games and events will be on nights and weekends, Kroeber added, nicely complementing the mostly daytime uses currently in place.
“That synergy works really well,” he said.
The stadium event team is planning an extensive outreach plan, he said, including creation of a website and/or smartphone app, strategies to proactively communicate upcoming event schedules, and strategies to aggressively promote non-auto modes of travel and the purchase of pre-event parking passes.
The developers are following in the footsteps of owners of the Worcester Red Sox, previously Pawtucket Red Sox, to utilize something called ParkWhiz, which allows someone to reserve and pay for their parking spot early and avoid frustration on game day by not having to drive around looking for a spot.
“It can be a really seamless fan experience,” Kroeber said.
That will also reduce traffic congestion, he said.
“When the stadium opens in March 2023, we want to make sure we have adequate parking,” he said, adding that they’re confident that there will be enough parking on site and in public spaces nearby for adequate access.
People are willing to walk for five or 10 minutes, he said, but not if they’re first frustrated about finding a parking spot.
The Valley Breeze is committed to keeping quality news stories like this one free to our readers. You can be a huge part of this local journalism success story by making a one-time or monthly contribution to what we do every week. Thank you as always for reading.
The size of the stadium will be “somewhat budget-driven,” he said, going out to bid this fall, but Fortuitous representatives remain “super confident” that the greater Providence market will support higher volumes of fans in the stadium. Euro 2020 ratings again showed this area to be a top market for soccer, he said, reaching all the way up to number 3 when Portugal played. All of that really supports the owners’ belief that this market will work incredibly well, he said.
“The fan experience is everything, and it starts with how you get to the game,” he said, adding that the developers are putting a lot of thought into parking and traffic.
Jane Arnold, a resident of Blaisdell Avenue near the stadium site, wrote to city officials last month that she’s concerned about the Tidewater Landing for a number of reasons.
“Most of these are beyond the deadline for addressing, but parking is not,” she said.
She noted that phase one calls for the stadium, parking garages, hundreds of residential units, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, and 56,750 square feet of retail and restaurant space, asking why not enough spaces seem to have been allocated for all of that. Arnold asked where offsite parking would be located and whether shuttle buses would be used, among other questions.
Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle responded that the city and developers are taking a comprehensive approach on assessing parking needs. She noted that the Planning Commission meeting will provide a chance for the public to ask questions related to parking and traffic issues and concerns, and the developer’s engineers will be there to answer questions.
“Parking and traffic issues will be one of the many areas that the Planning Commission will be focusing upon during their review of the project,” she wrote back to Arnold.