‘It’s a mess,’ says deputy mayor
The St. John’s Convention Centre expansion has left disabled parking for Mile One Centre events “a mess,” says the deputy mayor, after an IceCaps fan complained to city hall and IceCaps management.
© — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Mike Mulrooney stands on the wheelchair ramp at Mile One Centre. While the centre has proper access and seating areas for disabled people, Mulrooney says there is not enough parking for people with disabilities near the building.
Season ticket holder Mike Mulrooney told The Telegram he discovered this season — after his father had a stroke in September that has made mobility much more difficult — the only disability parking during Mile One events is on the first floor of the city hall parking garage.
That’s a long way for his father to have to walk, said Mulrooney.
“I was surprised, because it’s not very close when you consider why people are using those disability permits,” he said.
To make matters worse, most, if not all, of the spots — which aren’t disabled parking spots during the day and aren’t marked — are often already full at 5 p.m. on game nights, which is when the city sends an employee out to direct drivers without disability permits to other parking.
Mulrooney said he walks with his father from the city hall spots — when he can get one — but worries that other people might have mobility problems more challenging than his father’s, and that the situation will get worse as winter makes the walk slicker.
IceCaps chief operating officer Glenn Stanford — who spoke to Mulrooney about his concerns at a game in early November — told him it’s not an IceCaps issue, but an issue for St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, which runs Mile One and the convention centre.
Stanford advised him to send him an email, which he said he would forward to the proper person.
Given that St. John’s Sports and Entertainment receives city funding, Mulrooney decided to send an email with his concerns to St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth and Coun. Bernard Davis, whom he has yet to hear back from, three weeks later.
“I thought I would have at least gotten a response to say, ‘Yes, we’ve received your email, and we’re aware of it and we’re addressing it and we’ll bring it up at the next meeting.’ At this point, I don’t know if they’ve read the email, or if they’ve read the email and have just decided it’s not important enough to warrant a response.”
Coun. Danny Breen, council’s representative on the St. John’s Sports and Entertainment board, said the city is aware of the problem, which is due to the convention centre expansion.
“The disabled parking for Mile One was located in the convention centre, and back around September, we began working on what we could do, because that parking in the convention centre was lost. All the parking was lost,” Breen said. “We’ve got a lot of traffic and parking constraints in that area because of the convention centre construction.”
That’s why the first floor of the city hall parking garage was set aside for disabled parking, but Breen acknowledged that hasn’t worked.
“We ran into problems there. We began sending our staff over there around five o’clock to the security area, so nobody parked in there,” he said. “Lately, we’ve started finding that it was full at five o’clock, so people were coming downtown, filling up, and we were having problems there.”
The second floor of the city hall parking garage has now been opened to the public after five p.m. in an effort to alleviate parking pressure — which hasn’t worked either.
City staff are reviewing other options, said Breen. There’s a dropoff zone in front of the convention centre to try to make things easier, he said.
One suggestion has been to turn over Mile One staff parking to disability permits, said Breen, but the problem is staff parking spots are flush to the wall, making the passenger side of a vehicle inaccessible. Other spots are necessary for staff during events such as concerts for loading and unloading of equipment, so they’re not an option, either.
“We’re making the best that we can of it, but we definitely have to address the situation before the snow starts sticking to the ground.”
Ellsworth was more blunt in his assessment of the parking situation: “It’s a mess.”
Ellsworth said the problem should have been foreseen when convention centre expansion was started.
“The question we need to answer is, when we started the expansion on the convention centre, why didn’t we come up with a solution six months ago?” he said. “We need a long-term solution to disabled parking, because the convention expansion piece is a long-term piece.”
He’s hoping St. John’s Sports and Entertainment can find some adjacent property to use.
“They’re working very hard to try and find a solution,” he said. “Obviously we’re jammed up like everybody else downtown with the parking issue.”