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Pine Tree ISD trustees to discuss football stadium parking dilemma

By Sarah Thomas
Sept. 16, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Traffic issues at Pirate Stadium have prompted a Thursday meeting between Longview police officers and Pine Tree school officials as frustrated taxpayers are calling on their leaders to fix the problem.

"It was horrible!!! I couldn't even get in to pick my daughter after the 1st quarter ... They need to expand the parking lot as well as put up a red light. I saw multiple people almost get hit because they were making u turns. All that money spent on a beautiful stadium but parking is no better than it is at the old stadium," wrote Brandie Simmons after experiencing traffic chaos at Friday night's Pine Tree-Kilgore game.

The stadium accounted for the majority of a <a href="" target="_blank">$29.9 million bond package</a>, coming in at $16 million.

Pine Tree ISD school resource officer Chris Bethard said the biggest issue at Pirate Stadium is getting people into the stadium and parked in a safe and orderly manner.

The new stadium has four entrances: the main entrance at 3737 W. Loop 281, an entrance at PT Parkway, an entrance at Cotton Street and one at H.G. Mosley Parkway.

But, Bethard said, most people are coming in through the main entrance.

"We know there's a problem, and we're going to get together and work on it," Bethard said.

He also worked traffic at Pine Tree's home opener and worked with nine other officers to direct traffic in and out of Friday night's game.

"It's a growing experience with this new facility," he said. "With these first two games we are learning what the issues are. The city and the school will sit down to see what we can do."

School board President Charley Peck said Friday night's parking was more chaotic because Pine Tree was hosting Kilgore, which drew in large crowds.

"We were awfully close to capacity. It was the first big crowd," he said. "(We) did as well as can be expected given that it's the first time we've had this."

District spokeswoman Vickie Echols said the general order of parking is to fill up stadium parking or "home side parking" first and then visitors parking.

Additional parking is available at Pine Tree Intermediate School, Pine Tree Middle School and Lear Park, she said.

"We are aware of the traffic control issues that occurred at the <a href="" target="_blank">September 13th home game</a>, and because the new stadium has just opened, we have a designated team communicating on a regular basis," she said. "Our goal is to offer an enjoyable experience, but we realize that there may be some kinks to work out in the beginning."

The City of Longview has a zoning ordinance requiring one paved parking space for every three seats at a stadium or arena-type facility, said city spokesman Shawn Hara.

<a href="" target="_blank">Pirate Stadium</a> has 922 parking spaces but the city ordinance requires it to have 1,967 parking spaces.

The city and the school district entered a shared parking agreement allowing additional parking at Lear Park as long as space is available, Hara said, as part of an ordinance that allows the stadium to use adjacent parking.

He added he was not concerned about spaces not being available for overflow parking.

"There's not going to be peak usage at Lear Park on Friday nights during football season," Hara said.

Michael Shirley, city planner, said the northwestern and northeastern portion of Lear Park parking is where the stadium overflow should be going because those two areas service the baseball and soccer fields which usually are not utilized during a football game.

"We have the ability as far as those field rentals to know not to do that to prevent that overlap," Shirley said about scheduling soccer and baseball games during a Friday night home game.

Lear Park's northwestern parking lot has 423 parking spaces while the northeastern parking lot has 330 spaces.

The closest <a href=",+Longview,+TX&hl=en&sll=31.168934,-100.076842&sspn=14.527443,23.686523&oq=lear+park&hq=Lear+Park,+Longview,+TX&t=m&z=16" target="_blank">Lear Park</a> parking space is one half mile from the stadium and the closest middle school parking space is a quarter mile from the stadium.

"Our plan is to offer a shuttle bus at each home game, which is scheduled to run continuously with stops between the stadium, the intermediate campus, the middle school campus and Lear Park," Echols said.

Bethard said people aren't aware of the overflow parking at Lear Park and how best to get there.

"There's lots of confusion on where to go and finding a suitable manner to get them to come in," Bethard said.

He said signs pointing to additional parking and educating the community about the facility's layout could ease incoming traffic issues.

"We've just got to get people trained to use this facility. Until you get the people more understanding of what we expect from them (they won't know where to go)," Bethard said.



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