Smartphone app to steer Baylor game-day crowds to downtown Waco

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Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 12:01 am

Downtown leaders are hoping to steer game-day traffic and dollars to the urban core by hitching onto a smartphone parking app Baylor University is preparing to debut.

The app is designed to allow those with reserved parking on campus to enter their ZIP code and get detailed driving directions directly to their spot.

Baylor officials told Waco Downtown Development Corp. officials Tuesday that the app also would offer directions to parking destinations in the central business district and in East Waco.

With Baylor’s 7,000 paid spots at the stadium and on campus pre-sold for the season, DDC officials are planning free parking and shuttle service around Austin Avenue to promote the historic center of the city.

At a public meeting on game-day parking Tuesday, DDC executive director Megan Henderson said the app and related online information will help make it easy for visitors to navigate downtown and East Waco. She said she is confident that the details of parking, shuttles and directional signs will be worked out by the first game Aug. 31.

“We think we have figured out what the main decision points are, and whatever is left to be done, we feel like we have the processes in place and we will be ready for the game, with the caveat that there will be something that doesn’t work the way we expect it to,” she said.

Block party

The DDC has been working with the city’s downtown Public Improvement District Advisory Board to set in motion a regular block party on Austin Avenue on game day, complete with music, food vendors and a giant TV airing the game.

Austin will be blocked to traffic three hours before the game from Fourth to Eighth streets. Cross streets from Fifth to Eighth streets also will be closed.

Downtown planners say they plan to use a parking lot across from Bank of America in the 500 block of Austin Avenue as party central. Bank building owner Steve Sorrells has volunteered the use of the space for bands, tents and food.

The site is adjacent to the downtown shuttle stop, where six Waco Transit buses will pick up visitors and take them to the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 35, a short walk from the stadium.

Downtown planners also are discussing with McLennan County leaders the possibility of using county lots along Washington Avenue across from the courthouse for tailgating.

Henderson said the downtown event could cost about $4,000 per game, which is expected to come through PID funding and possible business sponsorships.

She said the details of the block party are up to downtown merchants.

“It’s not the DDC’s role or goal to make game day interesting or profitable,” she said. “That’s where the private sector comes in, recognizing that business owners have the very best ideas how to make it interesting and profitable.”

The PID board, which represents property owners that pay a surtax to improve downtown, has been involved in the event planning. Brian Ginsburg, chairman of the PID board, said he has been talking to Chris Ermoian, producer of the Texas Music Cafe TV show, about booking bands for the event.

He said the game is a good opportunity to show off downtown’s resurgence.

“We do want everybody walking downtown and eating downtown.”

The meeting on downtown game-day parking was the third of its kind and drew 35 people, fewer than previous meetings.

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