Public safety and transit officials Tuesday assured Waco City Council that they are prepared for the first game Aug. 31 at Baylor University’s new McLane Stadium, though they expect a few learning experiences.
In a work session, Police Chief Brent Stroman said his troops will be working overtime on game day, even using a state Department of Public Safety helicopter to help Baylor manage traffic and public safety as 45,000 people converge on the stadium.
“Everybody’s working well together,” Stroman said. “I’m comfortable that we will have this set by game day. And if there are issues, we will adapt and adjust for the next game. . . . This is what we do, and I’d like you to feel confident this will be in place.”
Still, Councilman Kyle Deaver said the public should be prepared to be patient with traffic, transit and parking issues.
“It’s a monumental task, and there’s going to be problems with anything like this,” he said.
With parking at the stadium and on campus mostly sold out, the city of Waco is taking responsibility for providing shuttles from free downtown lots, at an estimated cost to the city of $30,000 for the season.
Deaver said he was concerned whether there would be enough buses to get the downtown crowds to and from the game in a reasonable time.
Waco Transit General Manager John Hendrickson said he plans to start out with six buses before the game and 10 buses afterward, but for the first game he’ll have extra buses and drivers on call if they’re needed.
The buses will start two hours before the game to run six buses from the corner of Austin Avenue and South Fifth Street to the Martin Luther King Jr. intersection with Interstate 35, a trip that takes about four minutes one-way.
Post-game, the goal is to get everyone downtown within 75 minutes, Hendrickson said. He said he expects Waco Transit will serve about 4,300 downtown passengers in all.
Meanwhile, Waco Downtown Development Corp. officials are working to assemble 2,500 free off-street parking spaces in downtown, including public lots and private lots. City Manager Dale Fisseler said the city of Waco has agreed to assume any legal liability for the private parking lots on game day.
The council had no objection to the proposal by the DDC to close Austin Avenue to traffic, at least on the first game day, to promote a party scene on the street.
City Manager Dale Fisseler said the “festival atmosphere” will likely draw community residents who aren’t even going to the game but want to be part of the celebration and perhaps watch the game on a big-screen television.
Fisseler said the city also will enhance lighting along the riverwalk for those who prefer walking from downtown rather than riding the bus.
Fisseler said city staff have been in discussions with a “pedicab” operator to provide bicycle taxi services to the game. Any such providers would have to get a taxi license from the city, as would any boat taxis. Fisseler said he hasn’t heard any proposals yet for a river taxi, but he said that eventually may happen.