In a classic small-town move, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center announced they were doubling their parking fees “tomorrow” with a handwritten sign at their parking booths – first noticed and reported by local radio DJ, Tony Hart, from Mix 108.
The signs announcing the new $10 fee, up from $5, seemed a bit ironic for those following the city’s Visit Duluth marketing drama – the DECC was one of the groups that submitted an RFP to handle the city’s marketing. One can only imagine their proposed marketing campaign – a series of handwritten notes to “Come check out Duluth!” taped around the Twin Cities.
In a news release after the parking story had broke on the radio station websites, the DECC shared that the fee increase was necessary for ongoing maintenance and infrastructure repairs to the lot and ramp and that the fee is still less than other convention centers around the state. They bill the new parking fee as a “Day Pass” and tout it as a deal for those visiting – coming and going as they explore Canal Park and Duluth. It’s unclear how many of their parking guests use the lot while visiting Canal Park, but from experience, those that do typically aren’t coming and going during the day, especially if you have to walk all the way back to the DECC from the Lakewalk or pier.
The release also states that upcoming events will still have $5 parking – including season ticket holders for hockey games, and upcoming shows like the Duluth Fall Wedding Show, and the Duluth Home Show next spring. This begs the question – will “event parking” still be $5 at the DECC and “non-event parking” be $10?
As of this morning, the parking fee at next-door neighbor, the Great Lakes Aquarium, is still listed at $5 making it more affordable with similar access to Canal Park. While there is some parking downtown with skywalk access to the DECC ramp where people can exit to go to Canal Park, the increasing crime and homelessness in Duluth are making this option not worth the risk for most, especially those on their own or with children.
If DECC parking was safer than other options in the Canal Park area, maybe it would be worth the increased fee – but on a recent visit to the aquarium a homeless man was spotted moving a shopping cart with all this belongs from the playground below the aquarium’s lot across the street to the DECC parking lot – illustrating how the trouble downtown is spreading throughout the city.
While maintenance of the parking structures at the DECC is important, and if raising fees is necessary to keep the ramp structurally sound and the lot in acceptable condition, then the new fee is warranted. However, it may mean that people opt out of things happening at or near the DECC and it may make events like weddings and dance competitions reconsider the venue to avoid fees for their guests. Money talks and money walks – time will tell what the impact of doubling the parking fee will be. Hopefully, for future announcements of this kind, the DECC board, leadership, and marketing team will take a more professional approach.