Red Baron Arena requires maximum parking

“Build it and they will come.”

That’s the famous line from the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams.” And it’s a line often used when talking about building facilities to draw people or businesses.

In the case of the Red Baron Arena and Expo — it was built and people have been flocking to the multi-purpose facility for events ranging from hockey games to home and garden shows.

But there was a problem — once people arrived for these events, they had to hunt for parking. Some development plans didn’t work out and that led to insufficient parking.

The parking problem at the arena isn’t a secret. People have been complaining since the arena was built.

At a meeting held a week ago, city staff finally offered a proposal to the City Council to add 106 more parking spots at a new lot on the south side of the arena. The $450,000 project would bring the total number of parking spots up around 250 or 260, according to city officials.

An unanimous vote would have been expected for such a needed improvement. However, it wasn’t unanimous. Council members Russ Labat and Steven Meister both voted no. Council members Glenn Bayerkohler and James Lozinski were absent.

There was a concern raised about getting the maximum amount of parking spaces out of the proposed lot. The design submitted by staff included eight landscaping islands. However, these islands take up space that could go toward more parking spaces.

The islands do add aesthetics to offset the “sea of asphalt.” But we’re not talking about a city park or a government office. This is a sports arena that requires maximum parking.

Adding landscaping islands is probably the wrong concept for this venue. And it’s venue that’s getting more notice from event organizers. According to Independent sports columnist Jake Przytarski, Marshall was recently being considered for a junior league hockey team. While that didn’t pan out, more opportunities will develop as time goes along. Are we ready for them?

While we applaud city hall for making the decision to add more parking at the arena, the fear is that last week’s decision may not satisfy the needs of the future. Not adequately planning ahead is what created the parking dilemma in the first place.

Are we learning from our past mistakes?