Thirty minutes before kick-off, dozens of cars still circle the ACU campus trying to find a parking spot.
Parking could be a significant factor in the new building and stadium plans ACU recently released, and while the university studies show the planned parking will be enough, some on campus aren’t so sure.
Many students seem to agree the construction is worth it, although frustrations are inevitable, especially when it comes to the already existing hassle of parking.
The new plans show several changes in parking, including the removal and addition of new spaces.
ACU has about 863 parking spots within the lots on the north side of Moody Coliseum and Edwards Hall, combined with the spaces on Oliver Jackson Blvd.
In the mock-ups, which will change before the final project is completed, there is no additional parking.
All 184 spaces along Oliver Jackson will be completely destroyed and replaced with new athletic facilities, while the lots between Teague Special Events Center and Campus Court will lose about 125 spots. It will be left as one larger lot with about 280 spots.
There are also tentative plans to add a parking lot with about 64 spaces off Campus Court between the soccer and softball fields, as well as a lot north of Crutcher Scott Field with 130 spaces.
The change in parking raises an issue, considering this construction project’s goal- to make more people in the community and at ACU more involved.
Kevin Roberts, chief planning and information officer, said he is confident parking will be dealt with throughout the construction process.
“If we know we have a delivery of steel or something that will take up a significant amount of space, we schedule that really tight so we don’t have an area blocked off for months,” Roberts said.
Roberts plans to take full advantage of the next few summer months while most students are out of town.
“We’re trying to make sure that our calendar is laid out where we can do as much work as we can in the summer,” he said, “especially ones where we have to block off significant amounts of a parking lot, and make that work as best we can during the summers.”
To minimize the amount of extra vehicles on campus, all construction workers have an assigned parking lot off campus and will be shuttled to and from the construction sites, he said.
The construction will cause detours and closed lots, but it is for the ultimate safety of everyone involved, including construction workers, Roberts said.
“It’s a huge problem and it is one we spent a lot of time thinking about. So, there will be times during the phasing of this project where its going to be inconvenient, and we hate that, but safety and access for the guys working and those around it comes first,” Roberts said.
A parking lot for overflow across Ambler Avenue is an option, but is not part of the immediate plans.
Another thing to consider is the use of the parking that many said the campus needs. The new athletic facilities – namely the football stadium – will only be used a few times a year.
“With football, one of the temptations is to build a lot of parking for this great stadium. But then you start thinking, well, that’s eight days a year that this gets used,” Roberts said. “And game days on Saturdays automatically eliminate most of the faculty and staff being on campus, so those lots open up.”
Roberts and the construction team will work closely with ACUPD throughout the next few years during renovations.
“The construction phase is pretty easy for us because it basically involves establishing the construction footprint and the closing off of that footprint area,” said ACU Chief of Police Jimmy Ellison.
ACUPD must consider the safety of students, faculty and staff and construction teams while supporting the integrity of the buildings and work.
“When you block off a building, you not only have the space immediately around it, but you also have a large area called the lay down yard where they have an area to stack materials, lay down beams and things like that,” Ellison said. “It involves not only the safety area but also the construction area.”
The construction for most of the new vision is still in the planning phases, and different options will be taken into consideration.
“We still don’t know what the proposed footprint will look like for the athletic facilities, but I would expect major closures along Oliver Jackson and, potentially, even into the north Edwards lot,” Ellison said.
ACU will have to understand and adjust to any setbacks in the construction process.
“Once we do a closure for construction, it is closed completely,” Ellison said. “If we closed off a street or parking area, it is closed no matter what is going on, whether that be an event or tours.”
Ellison is not worried about traffic, and compares it to any other large event hosted by ACU.
“I don’t think it’ll be any different than a large event at Moody Coliseum, Sing Song for example. We just deal with the parking and traffic plan. People will get used to it on game day and people will park around that, whether it be in lots or on streets, or surrounding campus,” Ellison said.
Students have different opinions about how the new stadium and facilities will affect parking on game days.
“We have too much faculty parking and not enough student parking, but I think the hassle now will be worth it once we have nice, new buildings,” said Hannah Knight, sophomore psychology major from Midlothian.
Roberts and the construction team plan to foster an entirely new game day experience on ACU’s campus which will provide students with a campus-wide event.
“So, imagine on a game day, if you’re parking and you’re coming to the game day festivities in the middle of campus, you kind of move across campus toward the stadium, and we really like that,” Roberts said. “We are working hard on rethinking the game day experience at ACU, and we have an opportunity as we build this new stadium to create new traditions that will surround game day, and we really would like game day to be the epicenter of campus.”
Roberts and Ellison agree that the construction of the new facilities will be an adjustment, but one certainly worthwhile.
“Instead of looking at it as a few chaotic hours every Saturday, it could be looked at as a really exciting, vibrant atmosphere,” Ellison said.