Don’t feed the beast

By By Andy Thompson

By Andy Thompson

The worst idea that has floated around the U this year is constructing a parking lot underneath Presidents’ Circle or the Park Building.

Greg Geilmann, director of Kingsbury Hall, told The Chronicle that the parking situation was “the No. 1 complaint” that he receives from patrons attending performances at Kingsbury Hall and David P. Gardner Hall.

The attendees are unhappy about the long walk from the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot to the venues. They also do not like riding the shuttle that connects Rice-Eccles to Kingsbury and Gardner. Because of this, the U is studying the viability of a visitor parking lot underneath the U’s oldest and most esteemed areas, said Norm Chambers, assistant vice president of Auxiliary Services.

“The Kingsbury Hall advisory board has wanted more parking for years,” he said.

There are already parking meters (which are free after 6 p.m.) lining Presidents’ Circle and a lot for the disabled adjacent to Kingsbury.

Is there really a need for more parking? Hopefully, those attending a performance at the U are here in a leisurely capacity — it’s not like they have to rush for court.

I walked the long road from Rice-Eccles to Kingsbury — it took me about six minutes, which is probably quicker than waiting for the shuttle. There is also the visitors’ lot next to the bookstore that is about a five-minute walk from the performance venues. Granted, I might be a bit more fit than some of those attending performances at the two halls, but maybe it’s because I don’t mind a stroll along one of the more pleasant places in Salt Lake City. At the most, those attending a performance at the U have to plan 20 minutes ahead.

Not to mention that obesity is being labeled as a national epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 32 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 74 are obese. This number is at an all-time high partly because of the nation’s reliance on the automobile.

By appeasing these people who can’t walk three blocks for a concert where they will sit for two-and-a-half hours, the U is contributing to a national health crisis.

Pedestrians have long been overlooked during the design of communities, and the same will be true if these parking structures are approved. What’s the next step — putting a parking lot outside each building on campus?

Besides placating the sloths that patronize Kingsbury and Gardner Halls, a parking lot underneath Presidents’ Circle would diminish the beauty of the area. Though Chambers insisted that the pristine landscape would not be compromised for the project, the increased congestion and traffic to the area will surely be an eyesore for the most historic spot on campus.

For pedestrians, the 600 additional vehicles that a Presidents’ Circle lot would accommodate would only mean more dodging drivers yapping on cell phones.

The U should take the $5 million to $7 million that a new lot is estimated to cost and put it toward educational purposes. Give it to the College of Health and the College of Architecture and Planning to find ways to combat obesity and to design beyond sprawl.

The U should then tell Kingsbury Hall to tell its patrons to take a walk — they might actually enjoy it.