KU football fans to pay more for pregame fun

Turnpike reminder

Coming into Lawrence for the game on the Kansas Turnpike?

Don’t forget that ramps along the north side of the turnpike are closed at exit 202, which is the West Lawrence interchange that feeds onto McDonald Drive, past the Lawrence Holidome and onto Iowa Street.

What that means for drivers:

¢ Traffic coming in from the Kansas City area should consider exiting early at exit 204, the East Lawrence interchange that feeds into North Lawrence.

The only other option is going all the way to exit 197, the Lecompton interchange, and then doubling back into town.

¢ Traffic leaving Lawrence after the game and heading toward Topeka will not be able to get back on the westbound turnpike using McDonald Drive because that ramp is closed. Instead, use either the East Lawrence interchange to the east or the Lecompton interchange to the west.

J.D. Loudabarger, assistant athletic director for event management, works Wednesday under the sun removing the old numbers from the wheelchair-accessible platform seats so they may be renumbered. Various crews have been busy working in and around Memorial Stadium in preparation for Saturday's home-opener against Florida International.

The cost of tailgating in a campus parking lot is going up faster than Todd Reesing’s anticipated passing yardage.

A space in the lone on-campus, tailgate-friendly lot designated for parking by people outside the Williams Educational Fund – lot 90, east across Naismith Drive from Allen Fieldhouse – will cost $20 this season, up from zero a year ago.

The cost will be assessed on a per-vehicle basis and include free shuttle-bus rides to and from Memorial Stadium. And, for the first time ever, fans will be cleared to fire up grills, consume alcoholic beverages and participate in all manner of tailgating traditions.

But instead of getting a free pass to both park and ride, this season’s visitors to the 1,392-space lot will be dropping $20 for a chance to park – or perhaps $40 or more, if a vehicle’s too big to squeeze into one space.

The money will help KU’s Department of Parking & Transit cover its costs for managing the lot and operating the shuttle, said Danny Kaiser, the department’s assistant director. Last year, Kansas Athletics Inc. financed the shuttle while Parking & Transit absorbed other costs.

Now that the lot has established itself as a popular place for people to park – it opened last season at half full, and continued to attract more parkers as awareness increased – Parking & Transit can’t afford to cover all the bills on its own.

“There is a cost to that,” Kaiser said.

Lots no longer plenty

The switch comes now that construction of the Anderson Family Football Complex is done, and new football practice fields – displacing 300 parking spaces – have been completed adjacent to the stadium.

“Attendance at games has gone up considerably, and parking close in to the stadium has declined considerably,” Kaiser said.

Parking adjustments put in place for last season remain in effect this year, with on-campus parking lots near the stadium still reserved for members of the Williams Fund, the organization that accepts donations for Kansas Athletics Inc.

Last year’s moves are the ones that squeezed Evan Blackwell, a KU graduate who used to park and tailgate with friends along Memorial Drive, near the Campanile that overlooks the stadium.

Now he figures he’ll be somewhere at the edge of campus, perhaps even in lot 90. KU already has sold a record 39,000 season tickets for games, and Williams Fund donations are pouring in after KU went 12-1 last season with an Orange Bowl championship.

Ceding parking spaces to members of the Williams Fund might be frustrating for some folks, he said, but the 1997 graduate understands that the price of on-field success isn’t always easy for those in the stands – or folks huddled outside the stadium grilling burgers, downing beers and playing washers.

No argument here

“You can’t really argue with the results that have come the last couple years,” said Blackwell, a former season-ticket holder who now makes it to one or two games each season. “I’m fine parking a little bit farther away, if these are the kinds of results we’ll get.”

Adding to parking pressures this year: Saturday’s game is likely to be a sellout by its 6 p.m. kickoff, said Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director. That would be about 5,000 more people in the stadium than for last year’s opener, and the anticipated total doesn’t include others who may come to town simply to enjoy the game-day atmosphere.

Having lot 90 designated for tailgating is among several changes designed to accommodate fans. Also new this year: The city of Lawrence is financing a free stadium shuttle from downtown parking garages, which will have about 650 spaces available for free on game day.

Grills and alcoholic beverages are prohibited in city parking garages, but city officials are encouraging fans to take advantage of bars and restaurants in the central business district.

Kansas Athletics officials welcome the services.

“We’re thrilled that there will be parking lots away from the stadium that will be used,” Marchiony said. “That means there’s more interest in Kansas football. And people have a great time wherever they tailgate.”

Want to save money? Consider downtown

Fans looking to save the $20 in parking can still catch a free ride to Saturday’s KU game – from downtown Lawrence.

The city is financing a shuttle bus to travel to and from the city’s two downtown parking garages to Memorial Stadium. Like KU’s on-campus shuttles, the downtown shuttle buses are scheduled to start running at 4 p.m. and continue for an hour after the game.

There will be two pickup and drop-off points downtown:

¢ Just north of the Lawrence Arts Center, along the eastern side of New Hampshire Street in the 900 block.

¢ At the cutout in front of the Riverfront parking garage, at Sixth and New Hampshire streets.

Parking will be free in the garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street, which has about 400 spaces, and the lower level and ramp of the Riverfront parking garage, where about 250 spaces are available.

Grilling and alcoholic beverages – traditional ingredients for many fans’ tailgating events – are prohibited in municipal garages, but city officials are encouraging fans to take advantage of downtown restaurants and bars both before and after the game against Florida International.