Study shows excess parking at some Denver sports stadiums

August 4, 2014

Sports stadiums in Denver suffer from excess parking, creating unattractive concrete spaces, heat islands, and missed economic opportunities, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Denver.

"We tend to think the more parking, the better," said Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of civil engineering at the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science. "But too much parking can be as bad as too little."

The study began as a research project for CU Denver engineering student Alejandro Henao and was recently published in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. Historically, sports teams and their host cities have had difficulty determining parking needs. So the researchers set out to see how Denver stacked up, focusing on Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, Sports Authority Field and Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Henao gained hands-on experience surveying all four sporting venues, noting the number of available , number of people arriving per car, examining aerial images, and talking to facilities managers and spectators. The baseball park and the basketball/hockey arena were surveyed during weekday games while football field and soccer stadium data were collected during Sunday contests.

Coors Field saw just 60 percent utilization of its 3,800-space parking lot during an average game. Including the 2,400 off-site parking spaces, a total of 4,080 of 6,200 spaces were used. The auto occupancy for Coors Field was 2.4 persons per car.

The Pepsi Center had 75 percent of its 4,534 parking spots occupied during the game. Some 3,000 off-site parking spaces at nearby Elitch Gardens and the Auraria Campus were available with 70 percent of those taken. A total of 5,200 spaces out of 7,534 were used and 2.2 persons arrived per car.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park saw its 5,100 space parking lot about 90 percent full on game day. Event auto occupancy was 2.8 persons.

Sports Authority Field had 6,599 parking spots on-site and another 3,500 available within a half-mile of the stadium. The lots were completely full shortly after the game began. The scarcer supply seemed to spur increased carpool rates because it also experienced the highest auto occupancy with 3.0 persons per car.

While game day parking for the football stadium did not result in excess parking, the researchers also considered parking usage at off-peak times. Marshall and Henao said the Broncos play only eight regular football games and a maximum of a dozen home games a season. Annual revenue from their parking spaces is around $1.6 million but the opportunity cost in terms of land value is approximately $99 million, which results in only a 1.6% annual return.

According to Marshall, this doesn't take into account the negative impact of excess parking on pedestrians, land values, local businesses, and the character of downtown neighborhoods.

While the Pepsi Center and Coors Field are utilized more often that Sports Authority Field, thousands of spaces still sit unused on most days. Lots could easily be opened for other purposes such as residential or business developments, park-and-rides, or for what Marshall calls park-and-pedals, which allow bicyclists to park and continue their journey downtown by bike. These solutions could also reduce land being consumed by parking in the downtown core.

Reducing stadium parking is also an option. Some 600 spaces were recently removed at Coors Field to allow for light rail construction without creating a parking shortage. In fact, parking personnel at the stadiums told Henao that they hardly noticed a difference because the lots only fill up for one or two games a year.

The researchers urged teams and cities to rethink assumptions about parking since less parking spots have not resulted in less attendance. People still go to games but are more likely to carpool or find another mode of transportation, especially when the stadium is downtown. Less parking also allows for other development to fill that space, resulting in higher property tax revenues.

Marshall and Henao said the study suggests parking supply and cost are key components in travel behavior for sporting events.

"By transforming inefficient into better economic investments, we can simultaneously incentivize increased carpool rates and other modes of transportation, which can help provide a more positive experience for spectators as well as for downtown businesses, residents, and visitors," they said.

Explore further: Researchers count lots of parking lots

Related Stories

Researchers count lots of parking lots

September 11, 2007

U.S. drivers like lots of parking lots, according to a study that shows in some Indiana areas parking spaces outnumber resident drivers 3-to-1.

San Francisco parking app refuses shut-down order

June 27, 2014

The company behind an app that allows San Francisco drivers to get paid for the public parking spaces they exit is rejecting an order from the city attorney to stop its operations.

Study finds serious challenges to 'New Urbanist' communities

June 10, 2014

As New Urbanist communities expand nationwide, a study from the University of Colorado Denver shows the increasing challenges of balancing complex traffic engineering systems with the ideals of walkable, sustainable neighborhoods.

Bosch shows automated park assistance at CES

January 7, 2014

( —CES in Las Vegas, in full swing, has a number of gadgetry themes at this year's show, not least of which is automotive technologies that pave the way for driverless cars which, in the interim, complete tasks ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 04, 2014
The phrase 'excess parking' has the aura of technical jargon. It is not defined in the article; there is simply the presumption that its meaning is understood. It is not understood. In particular, does it refer to too many parking spaces for the need (an excess of parking spaces), or too many vehicles for the available parking (an excess of parked cars)? This is not clear from the context.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.