Waco Tribune-Herald: EDITORIAL: Logistics to get fans to Baylor Stadium could work if we start planning now

Aug. 1, 2012

Reprinted with permission of the Waco Tribune-Herald

Wednesday August 1, 2012

Perhaps it's only right that a bold, new endeavor in our city foster a vibrant new tradition to match. Still, when it comes to debuting the game-day experience of getting joyous fans to the $250 million, riverfront Baylor Stadium opening up in fall 2014, city and Baylor University officials had best get it right the very first time.

The good news: They have two years to perfect a plan. Enthusiasm is soaring -- hopefully enough to surmount any obstacles or complaints.

Some worry about the stadium plans, which call for 45,000 seats but only 2,500 parking spots around the arena (yes, about the same number of parking spaces as at Floyd Casey Stadium). Baylor says its strategy is to forge an invigorating game-day experience along the picturesque Brazos where spectators can stroll from our downtown to a striking, 35-foot-wide pedestrian bridge that will cross the river into this state-of-the-art athletic stadium.

Leaders vow various parking options downtown and on campus. Shuttles and even river ferry rides will convey to the stadium those not inclined or able to walk. In fact, we're betting that anyone who owns a boat will have it in the water on game day, similar to our very festive Fourth of July river scene.

Those who some years ago saw the Bears play at Notre Dame will recall how Fighting Irish players thundered through their campus and onto the field, thrilling fans. We envision the same, with players storming the river pedestrian bridge and sweeping into Baylor Stadium. Such ideas dwarf the routine of parking the car in a massive parking lot and trudging across asphalt to a game.

In short, Baylor and city officials say their grand vision will create a full day and evening of festivities, both on campus and downtown. And isn't this one reason the downtown Tax Increment Financing district approved $35 million for infrastructure needs at and around the stadium?

City Manager Larry Groth says this tradition could benefit everyone, including retail and restaurants, through folks coming downtown both before the games and afterward. Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. and others say encouraging folks to walk to the games will spur riverfront development, something we're already seeing some evidence of. Besides, 30,000 parking spaces at the stadium, the mayor very correctly concludes, "would be horrendous" in terms of traffic congestion.

All this is ambitious, complicated and lined with pitfalls. While we exhort city leaders and Baylor officials to lose absolutely no time addressing the logistical headaches that loom, we remind stadium critics that very few endeavors of consequence occur without embracing optimism and resolve in the face of steep challenges.