If you want to watch NHL hockey, you're going to have to pay NHL parking prices, too.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/9/2011 (3904 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Kevin Olinyk, assistant manager of the Winnipeg Hotel, hopes free parking will attract customers after Jets games.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kevin Olinyk, assistant manager of the Winnipeg Hotel, hopes free parking will attract customers after Jets games.

If you want to watch NHL hockey, you're going to have to pay NHL parking prices, too.

Unless you're fast enough to get one of the 100 or so spots adjacent to the Windsor Hotel on Garry Street or the Winnipeg Hotel on Main Street, that is.

Kevin Olinyk, assistant manager of the Winnipeg Hotel, said its owners, which also run the Windsor, aren't planning to charge anything for parking when 15,000 rabid hockey fans descend on downtown Winnipeg this fall and winter. There is, however, a method to their apparent madness.

"We've never charged for parking before. We're hoping people will park with us and then go inside and have a beer or two. We're hoping to create some business for our bars," he said.

Olinyk left a little wiggle room.

"Those plans may change," he said.

The vast majority of downtown parking-lot operators are preparing to boost their rates beginning this Tuesday night when the Winnipeg Jets host the Columbus Blue Jackets at the MTS Centre, the first exhibition game of the reborn Winnipeg Jets.

Jim August, CEO of The Forks North Portage Partnership, which oversees 1,200 parking spots under the Portage Place Shopping Centre, said it plans to charge $10 per vehicle for each Jets game.

"It's supply and demand. With greater demand, you can charge more. We don't want to be gouging people but we don't want to be lagging behind the price, either," he said.

"We know that (other operators) will be charging around that number so we want to be in the ballpark of fair market value."

Fans parking at Portage Place will also be able to buy a season's pass for $300, which works out to about $7 per game, and 10-game passes for $90.

It might surprise some people to learn that the more people parking, the more costs parkades incur. Higher traffic means more dirt, grime and garbage and that requires cleaning staff. Additional employees are also needed to process customer payments to minimize the wait time after games.

August said he knows parking rates are higher in larger markets such as Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

"I don't know if anybody here is going to be charging $15 or $20 for a parking spot," he said.

Many of the parking lots surrounding the MTS Centre are run by Impark and Parking Plus but there are also many smaller lots that are privately owned.

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Zone, said parking consultations have been going on with its members near the MTS Centre for about a year. He said there seems to be a general consensus that parking rates need to be higher now that hockey games are going to attract double the number of fans they used to when the Manitoba Moose was the local franchise.

Part of the parking challenge is that many people will come early and park all night long, Grande said. That puts area retailers, not to mention their employees, at a disadvantage.

"We still have shops that are doing business (during hockey games). How do we free up some spaces for the shoppers of MEC, people visiting the Radisson or the office workers that work on the weekend? Everything is being gobbled up by MTS Centre users," he said.

Grande said a 15 per cent vacancy rate at any time for parking spots is optimal in the downtown area.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca