Wednesday, January 26, 2011
By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Super Bowl is notorious as an event not for the faint of wallet.
Game tickets were going for $2,450 and up on Web resale sites this week, and travel packages for a party of two were selling for $3,000 to $4,000.
Even something as mundane as a game-day parking space was fetching upwards of $900 at ParkWhiz.com, a website that offers about 7,000 reserved spots at 43 lots in the vicinity of Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, site of Super Bowl XLV.
For fans already anxious about the game (and the amount of money they are spending to see it), the site offers the assurance they won't be circling in unfamiliar territory frantically looking for a parking space as game time draws near.
They can go on ParkWhiz.com, shop for a space that fits their budget, reserve it and print out a ticket.
"It's peace of mind," said Aashish Dalal, CEO of ParkWhiz.com and a Pittsburgh native who said he remains a "diehard Steelers fan" 15 years after transplanting himself to Chicago.
Parking operators pay the website a commission to list their spaces, and they set the rates. On Tuesday, they ranged from a bargain-basement $55 for a spot a mile from the stadium to $990 for the Dom Perignon of parking right next to the venue.
"People have purchased it for that amount," said Mr. Dalal, who grew up in Ross and attended North Hills High School. "That's what's great about this country ... capitalism at its finest."
ParkWhiz.com offers reserved parking around 90 major venues in the U.S., including Heinz Field and the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The website only accepts licensed operators, bringing credibility "to an industry much maligned for its shady practices," he said.
The site allows users to tailor their search for various amenities, including handicapped parking, nearby restrooms and whether tailgating is permitted. It also offers an application for smart phones.
Mr. Dalal said the idea for the service grew out of his own frustration at the uncertainties of finding parking at a major event.
"I've always hated parking. We'd run around. We'd be late. We'd leave an hour early ... you never know when to leave," he said.
At the Super Bowl, 90 percent to 95 percent of the parking spaces will be reserved in advance, Mr. Dalal said. The prices likely will fluctuate based on demand.
George Baker, founder of a similar service, ParkHub.com, projected that the available parking will be gone by next Wednesday.
He launched his site last year after customers began calling lots and asking attendants to save spaces for them. ParkHub.com lists about 40 lots and issues an "e-parking ticket" that includes directions to the lot. Operators pay the site a 15 percent commission on sales.
Rick Gann, whose father owns two properties with about 175 parking spots, was listing their availability for $221 apiece on the two websites on Monday. The spaces are at Bodacious Bar-B-Q and the Candlelite Inn, in the shadow of the stadium.
He said he was hoping to clear $175 per space after commissions, a one-day haul of more than $30,000.
"The thing is, we really don't know what the market is. We've never had a Super Bowl here. We're like everyone else. We want as much as we can get. If we're not getting any takers, we'll lower it," Mr. Gann said.
True to his word, by Tuesday the asking price had fallen to $162.
To prove his Pittsburgh chops, Mr. Dalal is giving away a Super Bowl parking pass for the best answer to "What it means to be a Yinzer." Entries are accepted at facebook.com/parkwhiz.
Jon Schmitz: email@example.com
or 412-263-1868. Visit "The Roundabout," the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at post-gazette.com.
First published on January 26, 2011 at 12:00 am