ST. PETERSBURG — Kathryn Socash said she felt like a hostage.
In the two hours after the Tampa Bay Rowdies game ended Saturday, the 63-year-old Clearwater woman had driven from the fifth floor of the McNulty Parking Garage all the way down to the fourth floor.
She was just one of hundreds who found themselves trapped in their vehicles inside the garage that night, all waiting their turn to escape. So she walked down to the ground floor to find out why it was taking so long.
Socash said she found one working gate staffed by a lone attendant — and right next to it an unstaffed gate blocked by a wooden arm. It bore a warning: “24HR VIDEO $50 FOR BROKEN GATE.”
“I thought that was a small price to pay to stop feeling like a hostage,” Socash said.
So she broke it.
The price, though, was a bit steeper than that.
Socash was arrested by St. Petersburg police and spent the next day in jail. But the incident has reverberated beyond her travails. Others railed against the parking implosion on social media, and the Rowdies apologized to those affected and offered them free tickets to a future game.
“There were a lot of people wanting to break the gates down,” said Tampa retiree Bill Wade, 62. “We’re not talking a few minute delay — we’re talking 2 1/2 hours.
“The word ‘hostage’ came to mind. Until I got to the gate and paid my $10 to get out, I was a hostage.”
The garage at 101 Second St. S is privately operated. An employee reached at the garage on Wednesday directed a Tampa Bay Times reporter to call 717 Parking Enterprises for comment. The company, which operates parking lots and garages in St. Petersburg and Tampa, did not return calls for comment.
Thus it remains unknown to the public why a single parking attendant was working on the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, with more than 7,200 attending a soccer game at nearby Al Lang Stadium.
Rowdies communications coordinator Mike Manganello said that while the team has no say in the operation of the garage, it still reached out to the manager to find out what happened and to prevent whatever happened from happening again.
To those caught in the McNulty parking meltdown, the team has offered free tickets to an upcoming game of their choice later this month or in April. They’ll just need their March 16 parking receipt.
As for Socash, the arrest report says she did more than snap the wooden gate with her own hands.
A few vehicles managed to escape without paying. Then when officers arrived, the arrest report said they found Socash and a large crowd upset by the situation.
Socash was jumping up and down, pointing at the parking garage manager and yelling. She was also “screaming to the already upset crowd that (the manager) was the person that could get them out of the parking garage,” the report said.
If her behavior had continued, the report said, it could have created a dangerous situation for the garage staff. So officers took Socash into custody — but the report said her “belligerent” behavior continued.
She was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct at 11:52 p.m. and booked into the Pinellas County jail. She was held there for 18 hours until she was freed Sunday night, after posting $250 bail. Socash complained about being stripped of her clothes and jewelry at the jail, and she is not too fond of her mugshot.
“I’m a coffee drinker and I asked if I could have a cup of coffee in the morning,” she said. “The guards basically just laughed in my face.”
The 63-year-old does, however, take full responsibility for breaking the gate. She said she was willing to reimburse the manager that night. At first, Socash said the officer asked her if she could pay cash and was only going to cite her. But when she continued to complain about the garage situation, she said the officer decided to arrest her.
But she disputes the other allegations in her arrest report, especially the “belligerent” parts.
“I would love to see a video of me jumping,” she said. “I don’t remember the last time I ever jumped.”
And the screaming?
“I don’t think I was yelling, but I’m sure my voice was loud,” Socash said. “But I wasn’t belligerent.”
When Wade heard what Socash did, he thought about offering to help pay her legal expenses. He said she wasn’t alone in looking for ways to escape the parking garage that night. He had taken his 5-year-old granddaughter to the game, and said they spent more time trapped in there than watching the Rowdies.
“What would you do if you and your family were stuck in a garage for 2 1/2 hours?” Wade said. “You’re going to look for a way out.”
Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected]