At most ballparks you can find free parking somewhere, if you’re willing to walk at least a half a mile and/or risk getting your car towed. But for Tampa Bay Rays games, you need only find three other people to carpool with you–admittedly a challenge in a lesser venue featuring a team unlikely to be very competitive this year, but at least a viable option.
The Rays list this under “The Rays Go Green“, but apparently they’re most ecology-minded after getting out of church, since this option is widely available on Sundays, while for the rest of the week it’s the first 100 cars that arrive in the lot. The applicable lots are 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9; 6 and 7 are closest to the field and are off of 10th Street.
Not a bad deal, unless you’re one of those antisocial tightwad types who only goes to the game with other people only so that they’ll chip in on the parking. In that case, there are further lots that charge about half of what the Trop does, but it’s a bit of a hike.
The best thing is that the “premium game” parking rate is even waived for this–the Rays say “all other games”, so from that I assume that it applies to when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. I probably shouldn’t mention this, since it may have been an oversight on their part. So shhhh…
Tropicana Field will never win any best ballpark awards, but it does have some things going for it, and one of them is that it won’t break your wallet in half. The upper reserved and upper box seats are perfectly reasonable, and if you’re early enough you can bring some friends and park for free. And you know the game won’t be rained out.
And if you’ve gotten those occasionally available all-you-can-eat seats in the tbt* Party Deck, your food and parking is paid for. That’s a significant chunk of change at the ballgame these days.
Wrigley Field in Chicago is surrounded by eating and drinking establishments. 90 miles north in Milwaukee, Miller Park is surrounded by a parking lot…which on game nights becomes a huge eating and drinking establishment.
While researching Miller Park for an upcoming guide (which hopefully will be available this summer), I had yet another kick myself in the head moment. I visited Miller Park in 2001, the year it opened, and I had no idea about the requirement of tailgating. Is that even possible to do? I was one of the first to arrive and parked close to the park, waiting for the gates to open. But all I had to do was turn my head. Talk about tunnel vision.
The tailgating scene at Miller Park, by all accounts, is like no other in baseball. Maybe it’s the high price of beer and brats inside the park. Maybe it’s the location of the ballpark away from downtown and the amount of fans that simply drive to games. Maybe it’s the state of Wisconsin and its bratwurst culture. It’s most likely all three.
Brewers fans take their tailgating seriously. On game days the grills get fired up almost as soon as the parking gates open three hours before game time, and sometimes even earlier than that. Tents are set up, frisbees are tossed around, music is blasted, and of course, brats are grilled and beer is iced. On Opening Day or on other big days, some people even put together an elaborate bathroom setup. People in discussion forums asking about Miller Park are told to get themselves a disposable grill, some charcoal and some Usinger’s or Klement’s brats. Which kind? It doesn’t apparently matter.
The Brewers are kind enough to encourage tailgating at Miller Park, which may be part of the reason they are ranked as one of the best teams in baseball for fan value. There is a Klement’s Sausage Haus stand outside that provides not just brats and beer for the unprepared but a clean bathroom for the over-prepared. They have pavilions set up across from the Sausage Haus that can be rented by groups. (OK, so they sell parking lot space at a premium price. What team doesn’t?) The lots have coal bins to dump hot coals before leaving. Last I read, they will even let you leave your car in the lot to take a cab if you’ve had too many, so long as you go and get it by a required time the next day.
The Klement’s folks even send out a “Brat Patrol” to single out a group of tailgaters for special treatment each game; they give them prizes and feature their group on the scoreboard for that night’s game.
The whole spectacle is so popular that some folks don’t even plan to attend the ballgame; they simply have a few cold ones and a brat or two, and then head to a Bluemound Road bar nearby to watch it. Given the generosity of Milwaukeeans, who are even known to share their brats and beer with strangers in the lot, these people may be making out like bandits.
There’s only one unwritten rule: don’t bring Budweiser.
Yet another reason to arrive early to a ballgame.
Some time ago I wrote a blog about the wonderful website called “Precise Seating“, that provides all sorts of details on nearly every seat at Fenway Park–how close the seat is to home plate, how much of the view if any is obstructed, whether you’ll have to crane your neck to watch, and much more. It is recommended in the Fenway Park E-Guide.
It’s sites like Precise Seating that makes the Internet such a valuable tool for so many things. Think about how we used to buy tickets, book hotels and flights, look for restaurants, even find our way somewhere. Good old Yellow Pages…I sure don’t miss them. Remember writing down directions to someone’s house that they gave you on the phone? These kids today, they just don’t know how good they have it.
Anyway, while working on the coming Ballpark E-Guides booklet for Wrigley Field (hopefully available sometime in 2011, although I can’t promise it), I stumbled on a site called ParkWhiz, and driving to the game, or even to the city in general, will never be the same.
ParkWhiz could best be described as StubHub for parking spots. You go to the ParkWhiz website, enter the date and time and location (including sports venues) that you wish to declare a spot your own, and ParkWhiz will list for you the addresses of all of the available nearby spots. There is a map to show where each spot is, and even customer ratings and whether tailgating is permitted for each spot. Click on a button to reserve it, print out your reservation, plug it into your GPS and head to the game knowing that a spot will be yours and you’ll have more time to spend grazing around the ballpark. These days, you could do it all with your phone if it’s advanced enough. ParkWhiz does charge a 10% commission…they do need to make a profit…but that’s worth its weight in gas money saved by a couple laps around the park.
For just one example, as of this writing, for the December 12 Bears game at Soldier Field in Chicago, there are spots available for just $11. That’s quite a deal, although it is 1.7 miles away (which is just a short train ride in Chicago).
ParkWhiz guarantees your reservation too…full refund if you don’t get your reserved spot.
Not only does a site like ParkWhiz help motorists find a spot without searching endlessly around a ballpark, it helps parking lot owners or anyone else offering spaces to fill them at market value prices. How many times have you felt ripped off after shelling out a ridiculous amount of money for the only space you could find? With ParkWhiz, it’s a lot more likely that you’ll pay what a space is worth, and you don’t have to be gouged anymore. Well not as much anyway.
ParkWhiz probably wouldn’t be as great in a city like Philadelphia, where there is a sports complex taking up a great deal of space that has ample parking anyway. But if you would really prefer not to take a train, ParkWhiz would be a great boon to your party heading to New York, Boston, Chicago or any other city where parking is always a challenge.
One less hassle for the ballpark visitor thanks to the Internet. If this keeps up, there won’t be a need for Ballpark E-Guides. But until then, I soldier on!
ParkWhiz website: www.parkwhiz.com
I had a thought last night as I was researching Wrigley Field in preparation for a future E-Guide.
Like most classic ballparks (and many new ones), The Friendly Confines is shoehorned into a tightly packed neighborhood of Chicago, known to all who frequent it as Wrigleyville.
It’s a wonderful thing. What makes Wrigley special, even more so than Fenway Park or Camden Yards, is how the entire community for blocks around is connected to events at the local ballpark. People gather everywhere, not just inside the venue. On the surrounding streets, on the rooftops, in the local taverns, a Cubs game is a celebration like no other in baseball. If you want to know why Chicago is such a popular tourist destination, you need only to attend a game somewhere near Wrigley Field.
However, this creates a serious drawback…where to park one’s car. Parking at Wrigley Field isn’t non-existent, but it is sparse, difficult and often wallet-busting.
A problem like this is exactly why I do what I do. The purpose of Ballpark E-Guides is not to tell you that driving to and parking at Wrigley Field is impossible, but rather to tell you how you can with as little pain as possible. Let’s face it, as convenient as the CTA’s Red Line is to the venue, some people might not want to use it.
So I have been looking for places to park, and for free if possible, and on one website a reader left some good tips, but also stated that while he knows a good place to park for free, he wasn’t revealing it because he wanted it to remain “his spot”.
I’m not being critical of him. I understand this completely. But it’s my purpose to ferret out this sort of information wherever I can find it, because it’s my position that Ballpark E-Guides should contain as much information–especially hard to come by secrets–as possible. It has to be worth the customer’s fin.
So I expect I am not going to be popular with some people. I may give away a hard-earned parking secret that on the surface may make life more difficult for the person who found it on his own. So if that’s you, I hope you’ll hear me out on this.
Ballpark E-Guides would be doing very well if it sold guides to 1% of baseball fans who go to games. That is a loftier goal than it sounds, but it would be nice. The Cubs drew about 3 million people to Wrigley Field in 2010, so 1% of that total is 30,000. Of those 30,000, if 10% of them are driving to the game, that is 3,000. Divide that by 81 home games and now there are 37 people who read the guide that are driving to a game on a given day. At two to a car, that’s 19 cars. The E-Guide is going to list as many parking options as possible, so the likelihood of someone going for that secret spot because the E-Guide told them to is actually pretty small.
So chances are good that even if the Wrigley Field E-Guide sells 30,000 copies, which would be an awful lot, your secret will probably still be relatively safe. You may be upset with my revealing something, and I completely understand. But keep in mind that it’s not as though I asked the president to include it in a national address. Ballpark E-Guides are intended for a small, niche market. In fact they’re for people like you…people who want to make their lives easier, especially when it comes to enjoying a ballgame that is supposed to be fun. Hopefully, for every secret you had that Ballpark E-Guides has uncovered, you will learn a few things that you didn’t know about.
So I get it if you’re upset that others will know something you didn’t want them to know. Just remember that the knowledge won’t be as widespread as you think.
And hopefully, if I’ve done my job, you’ll have a better alternative!
See you at the yard,
Recently, thanks to my wife giving me the best birthday present ever, we went to Boston for a game at Fenway Park. I married up.
Having researched Fenway for the Fenway Park Guide I have written, I well knew not to try to park there. Not only is Beantown a difficult city to navigate in, you won’t likely park anywhere within a half mile of Fenway for less than $30. There’s a reason those Green Line trains get so packed.
But if you are a large group that would rather not buy a whole bunch of train tickets, I suppose you could use the Prudential Center’s lot. The Pru, as Bostonians call it, currently charges just $16 on game days to park in their garage, and they pronounce it the best parking deal you’ll find, which is mostly true (although my Fenway Park E-Guide has a few secrets in it).
The Pru also has a food court where you can get a cheaper pre-game meal than you will likely pay at the park. There are several chain restaurants, including a Legal Seafood clam chowder joint.
The only thing is that the Pru Center is a good hike from Fenway Park, a walk that most people believe to be about ten minutes but one that I put closer to 20. This can be alleviated by grabbing a Boston Pedicab (see “Take A Rickshaw To Fenway” in this blog), but if you’re not a stiffer on tipping people, that would pretty much negate the money you’ve saved on parking, especially if you use one again to return to the garage after the game. It might be more fun than trying to find a spot near the park, but it’s not going to save you any money.
Given the choice between parking at Alewife or Wellington and transferring to the Green Line or parking at the Prudential Center and doing the walk, I’d probably still go with the train. The T in Boston is still a cleaner ride than public transit in most cities, and while I don’t mind walking a long ways, I’m not crazy about a long hike while I could be missing pre-game festivities.
Still, it’s not a bad deal considering, and if you’re going to down an El Tiante Cuban sandwich and a sausage outside, you could probably use the exercise.
Hey readers, sorry for the delay in posting…wrapped up in Frontstretch work and in my Tropicana Field chapter…almost done!
But anyway today’s tip is for Citi Field, home of the Mets.
As you know, parking at ballgames is becoming more expensive, and parking in New York City at all is going to cost you. But I did find a way to save quite a few dollars parking at Citi Field. (There are places to park for free a few blocks away, but I’m not giving up that one.)
In 2001 I went on a baseball road trip, and one of the stops was Comerica Park in Detroit. I didn’t want to park in the satellite lots for $5, being in Detroit and whatnot, so I parked in the venue lot for a teeth-grinding $20. I was right there at the gate, but still. Comerica Park is so gorgeous that I made a return trip in 2002. I got to the park early in the afternoon, because I wanted to explore the city a little on the monorail and then just leave from the game. I parked in a garage across the street, and because it was before 3:00 PM, I was charged exactly two dollars for the entire night.
I’ll wait around for a few hours for a 90% discount on parking.
Similarly in Flushing, thanks to outraged locals, one can exploit the parking rates on game days in the Southfield lot just south of Citi Field, along Roosevelt Avenue. This lot is generally for commuters using the 7 train to get to Manhattan, but it also serves as a Mets lot on game days. The Mets game day parking price is currently $18 (which they proudly announced that you can use your credit card to pay, as if making fans go into debt just to park were something to be proud of) and this applies to the Southfield lot as well.
But local commuters justifiably threw a fit when this lot started charging $18 to park there on game days, since they suddenly saw a 400% increase in their parking rate. And the owners of the lot agreed that this wasn’t right, and adjusted their game rate.
Now if you arrive at the Southfield lot before 9:00 AM for day games, or before noon for night games, the game rate will not yet apply, and you will pay a sharply discounted price for parking, $4 last time I checked. $4 to park at a Mets game? Sold.
All of this was confirmed to me when I e-mailed the owners of the lot, but it took them a while to respond, so I wonder if they were being cautious about sharing such information. Can’t blame them, but they did say I was correct, so I applaud them for that. And keep this to yourself.
The only question with all of this is what to do for a few hours in Flushing before you can enter the ballpark. No problem. You can spend some time in nearby Flushing Meadows Park, or visit the Hall of Science a few blocks away. Or you can jump on a 7 train to Manhattan and have a great deli lunch…even with a round trip on an MTA train you’ll still be ahead.
If you’re driving to Citi Field, try this option. You’ll save enough for a Shackburger and a Shackmeister Ale, items not to be missed at a Mets game.