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The Parking Professional: How long have you been with the Calgary Stampede?
Bill Church: I started with the Stampede in a part time security role in November 1989, and began with the parking department in the spring of 2009.
TPP: What exactly is the Calgary Stampede?
BC: The Calgary Exhibition & Stampede is a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities. Many people know the Calgary Stampede from our annual 10-day Rodeo, Chuckwagon races, and fair in July. On our 212 acre site, located adjacent to downtown Calgary, we operate year round trade show halls, banquet, convention and agriculture facilities; an on-site casino, and have the 19,000 seat Scotiabank Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames NHL franchise. Our parking lots are also used as outdoor exhibit and special event space. The Calgary Stampede will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012.
TPP: Tell us about the Calgary Stampede's parking operations.
BC: We currently have more than 6,000 surface stalls, in paved and gravel lots, and 300 underground stalls tied to the casino on our site. The majority of our lots are manned pay on entry, with one lot for hourly parking, and one is at a discounted daily rate. Future plans call for a 1,000 car above-ground parkade to be constructed. We also own and operate two trolleys and a shuttle bus to provide transportation services for our events.
TPP: What's the biggest challenge you are facing with regards to parking and transportation operations?
BC: During our annual Calgary Stampede, we lose the majority of our parking area to fair and exhibit space. Allocating the remainder of our parking stalls to our volunteers, midway vendors, rodeo competitors, and public requires a complex balance to meet the expectations of all our user groups while hosting more than one million visitors to our annual fair over the 10 days. The Stampede also has some ambitious expansion plans, including a retail development and the new agriculture arena facility. These will all have an impact on our available parking.
TPP: How are you working to overcome this challenge?
BC: We begin planning for next year's Stampede during this year's event. We evaluate what we know in comparison to what we expect to change, and communicate with each user group throughout the change process to ensure we are as equitable as possible, while still maintaining a revenue stream for the company. Our trolley busses provide complimentary rides to our entrance gates from our outside lots. We utilize a couple of off site locations to store empty trailers and provide limited RV parking for our exhibitors. The parking department also controls service vehicle access through our back of house area, which creates some unique challenges on its own.
TPP: Everyone has a unique story about how they really got into parking. What's yours?
BC: I got into parking through a realignment of our loss prevention division. Before I accepted the role, the previous manager had the responsibility for overseeing both the parking and security departments, a daunting workload.
TPP: What's the most interesting parking story you can share?
BC: No one story sticks out, but in our world, no two days are the same. Our parking lots will change from event parking one day, to exhibit space or the temporary home of a Cirque du Soleil big top tent all in a short period of time. Our parking staff are used to the daily variety, and excel in their customer service to all our clients.
TPP: What is something about you that might surprise people?
BC: I still live on the family farm just north of Calgary, so the Calgary Stampede's mission to preserve and promote western heritage and values has a personal meaning to me. Maintaining the balance of our business needs and providing our brand of hospitality to our clients and guests keeps me focused all year long.