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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

North Charleston Coliseum has 13,295 seats, making it ideal for pop stars, rock legends and country sensations to perform.

Compare that number to the less than 3,000 parking spaces surrounding the complex and you have somewhat of a problem.

While small shows at the Performing Arts Center are easily manageable at only 2,300 seats and plenty of parking, larger Coliseum performances come with their own unique challenges.

It all begins with deciding how to arrive at the concert.

Calling a taxi or Uber can solve the parking dilemma, but not the traffic. And if you choose to drive, waiting in a line of cars to park, forking out $10 and then having to fill a space on the outskirts of the lot can be frustrating, especially if you are running late.

Even planning to show up a half-hour early is no longer enough time, with the chance of being turned away at the entrance and sent to an overflow lot to wait on a shuttle. Then, there are more lines once you've reached the doors — for bag searches, ticket taking, beer, food, restrooms and more.

Attending a show can be a hassle, but it's about to get worse before it gets better. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel that will fix some of these current issues.

The North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center complex off International Boulevard and West Montague Avenue is preparing for the 2018-19 development of an estimated 2,200-space parking garage.

The $50 million project, which will take about 18 to 24 months to complete, was approved by North Charleston City Council at a Sept. 28 meeting. The garage is being funded by a 25-year extension of an agreement with the city that will provide $1.4 million annually. Annual funding under the 1997 agreement paid for the Convention Center.

The plan

The five- to six-floor garage will be located at the lot closest to the Convention Center between Coliseum Drive and Firestone Road.

The initial engineering plan is scheduled to be complete by early November and be put out to bid, according to city of North Charleston project manager Adam MacConnell. The contract will be awarded in January.

"We think this may offer an opportunity for additional development in and around the Coliseum," MacConnell said. "North Charleston is starting to come into its own. Additional entertainment-type areas might allow additional development to create a true entertainment district in the area."

During construction, around 400 of the complex's spaces will be out of commission, leaving approximately 2,000 available, said the Coliseum's director of marketing, Alan Coker.

Satellite lots, with complimentary shuttle service to the Coliseum and Convention Center, will be activated on an event-by-event basis. Historically, the Coliseum has used the North Charleston Fire Museum and Tanger Outlets for off-site parking when needed, and parking alerts with shuttle schedules have recently been issued for high-attendance shows, such as Thomas Rhett and Ed Sheeran.

"When we do use off-site parking, we'll send out advance information (locations, times, shuttle info, etc.) through the media, social media and emails to ticket buyers," Coker said.

These satellite lots will still cost attendees $10 a space, the same as each space in the directly adjacent lots. The price rose from $5 to $10 in February. Future parking-garage spaces are set to stay at $10 but could increase as the area continues to develop and the garage gains potential as a multi-business-use space.

"Parking garages are extremely expensive for what they are, just concrete and steel," MacConnell said. "It's costing $20,000 to 25,000 per space to construct and will take a lot of parking to pay it off. Current parking is $10 per event, but that is always subject to change every few years."

MacConnell said the Coliseum will be losing money on the $10 cost per space at those satellite lots due to the provision of consistent free shuttles back and forth before and after shows.

"If we're going to make you park this far away, we're going to shuttle you," MacConnell said. "It will cost us more to shuttle people from those satellite lots than the parking money we receive, but we're not always in the game to make money."

Local musician Daniel Crider, who attends a couple of shows at the Coliseum per year and more at the Performing Arts Center, has never found parking an issue, even during high-attendance shows such as Prince and Hall & Oates.

"I've never had an issue with parking really — or traffic," Crider said. "They've done a great job at moving people in and out pretty smoothly. I would imagine putting 400 spaces out of commission would cause some problems, though. Now, if we want to gripe about something, the cost of parking at $10 at the Coliseum when you've paid a ticket to see the show is a little absurd."

The satellite lots are a temporary solution, though not necessarily appealing to audience members who have to plan ahead and arrive early to stay on schedule.

"That would be a bigger inconvenience," said Crider of the satellite lots. "I would consider it, depending on how much more time it adds to getting to the show because of a shuttle system. If it's too much, I may weigh the possibility of Ubering to the show versus parking."

So far this year, the Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center have collectively hosted 150 public events, Coker said. While the 400-space shortage will not likely cause any issues for an average Stingrays game, it will be significant during high-attendance and sold-out shows, such as recent Ed Sheeran, Thomas Rhett and Hall & Oates performances.

"We took an Uber there knowing it was going to be an absolute mess," said Zach Turner, who attended the Hall & Oates concert. "And while arriving late, the line to park was absurdly long, not to mention the line leaving being even worse."

As for satellite parking, Turner said, "I think people will do it, but I don't think they'll want to. It's simply a matter of convenience. The $10 for the shuttle is a little much. It should be cut in half, not more."

Long-term reward

Ultimately, the parking garage will almost double current spaces at the complex, eliminating the need for satellite lots, at least for a while, after its completion.

"We've been pitching the parking deck for probably 10 years. It's been a longtime plan," said Ray Anderson, assistant to the mayor, and who has spearheaded the project.

"Our goal has always been to develop the land around the Coliseum. This is the first step in helping us to create the master plan to continued development around the Coliseum. We've always intended to build two parking decks, so after this, we can start securing resources for the next step. If we had 4,000 spaces, that would be about anything we could handle, what we would need."

The North Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center plans to add a 2,200-space garage to help alleviate some of its parking and traffic issues at more-popular events.
[File/Leroy Burnell/Staff]

The North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center complex will gain an estimated 2,200 parking spaces with the addition of a parking garage.

[File/Grace Beahm/Staff]

Parking at the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center increased from $5 to $10 in February.

[Grace Beahm/Staff]

The site plan for the new North Charleston Coliseum Complex parking garage.

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