Image via WikipediaLast night my wife and I attended a concert at the USANA amphitheater which was the first time I have ever been to this venue. The facility is located just northwest of 5600 West and 5400 South. This facility is the perfect example of what happens when politicians start seeing dollar signs from "economic impacts".
However, what those economic impacts do not say is how much a facility like this is taxing on the infrastructure of the area. I am not saying I am opposed to such facilities but when you build it out in the middle of nowhere in an area that does not have the infrastructure to support it you are asking for traffic nightmares. While there is bus service nearby on 5400 South, it stops running at 6:00pm at night and does little to help deal with the crowds at a concert like this.
To put this in perspective, a couple of years ago we attended a concert at the facility formerly know as the Delta Center. In this case we had the option of taking TRAX and did use it. Despite there being about three times as many people as compared to last night, we were in our apartment in 45 minutes from leaving. Last night we were still stuck in our parking spot 60 minutes after the concert ended.
So what was the difference? The Area in downtown was built in a central location, within easy access to transit while the USANA amphitheater is located away from major highways without transit support.
Lets use race tracks as another example. Race tracks are often built out in the middle of nowhere mainly because of NIMBYism and the presence of cheap land. The Atlanta Motor Speedway south of Atlanta is a perfect example. When I worked in the NASCAR world the old joke about Altanta was that while you were driving to the race you would encounter people still trying to get out of the track from the previous race (the races were six months apart). Once again you had no transit access mostly two lanes roads to access the track.
Now compare Atlanta to the releatively new California Speedway (or Autoclub Speedway as it is now known). This race track has direct access to a Metrolink Commuter train route plus two major interstates. Approxametly 10 to 20% of the people arrive via Metrolink to watch the races giving race attendies an alternative to battling Southern California traffic.
It is important that entertainment facilites be located in areas were the transporation infrastructure is in place and not just were a vacant piece of ground happens to be. When looking at the economic benefits of these facilites we also need to look at how easy people are going to access it and make sure there is alternatives to driving directly to it.