Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: Don't let Tampa's success ruin the show at the Straz

David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. (Times archives)

David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. (Times archives)

When you're talking about Tampa's downtown, growth is good. Cranes bobbing, parks reborn, streets bustling, buildings rising, all good. Growth is great!

But a side effect of growth that threatens to mess with one of the city's best assets? Not good.

The problem is parking, or the lack thereof. City officials will tell you there are plenty of spaces — just not, you know, close to where you want to go.

This specific red flag of a problem involves the Straz, Tampa's gem of a performing arts center elegantly sprawled along the Hillsborough River at downtown's northwest corner. With five theaters and a conservatory, it's the place to see Wicked, laugh at David Sedaris and try to stay awake through an endless graduation. During summers, it teems with kids taking ballet, violin, even going to rock school. All good.

But crisis brews. Downtown grows, nearby Straz parking does not. In fact, a new apartment development under construction has temporarily gobbled 500 close spaces for Straz patrons not inclined to walk long distances. Even for Hamilton.

What about our existing parking lots and garages? Let's just say historically it's as if we turned the whole system over to a demented villain who rubbed his hands with glee. Over the years, past parking options have involved getting a weird plastic coin from a machine you must later return, unmanned pay stations with instructions that would befuddle a Rhodes scholar, standing in line for a ticket so you can traipse all the way back to your car to put it on the dashboard and —- not making this up — a live attendant standing at the ticket machine as you drive in who pushes the button for you and hands you your ticket. Seriously.

How bad is it for the Straz?

The president of the Florida Orchestra recently told the City Council its closing pops concert was more than 90 percent sold out at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater and even he couldn't get a ticket for St. Pete's Mahaffey Theater. But the same show at a much smaller hall at the Straz was only three-quarters full. Ouch.

How bad? Curtains have been held 20 minutes or more — and in at least one case, a lot of thwarted theatergoers still weren't there. No wonder some people, frustrated by what should be a lovely night turned into a stressful slog, say they're canceling tickets and giving up.

This matters. "It's got to be solved," says Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen. "If you get a reputation for holding the curtain, it's going to hurt our world-class facility."

The encouraging news: A task force is working on creative solutions that the City Council hears on June 22. Some short-term fixes could include preselling spaces, cutting down on lines at pay stations by having more of them and staffing them, dependable shuttles, reconfigured streets and traffic cops. Mostly, we need to figure out how to use existing garages and lots as event parking rather than all-day spaces so crowds coming and going all at once don't back up block after frustrating block.

Long-term? Nobody loves big ugly parking garages, but eventually the Straz will likely need one nearby.

In summation, downtown growth is good. Not letting a city's success be its headache, even better.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Carlton: Don't let Tampa's success ruin the show at the Straz 06/15/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 5:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh

    Soccer

    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.