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Fans won’t be happy with parking and tailgating plan for Pitt - Penn State game

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2011 AFC Championship: New York Jets v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

Pitt’s game against Penn State this Saturday is easily the biggest draw on the Panthers’ home schedule this year. Pitt may play more important games this season if they find themselves in the thick of things for a division title. But the Penn State game is certainly the biggie in terms of a home attraction.

So, it goes without saying that the recently announced parking / tailgating plan in the pre-sold lots for the contest at Heinz Field is going to upset a lot of folks.

In case you didn’t know, the Pirates play a home game on Saturday starting at 1:05 p.m. and that’s the driver behind this. This will obviously annoy local Pitt fans but it’s going to annoy the heck out of out-of-towners coming in for the game, too. With an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, many folks, no doubt, had plans for getting into their lot early, spending all day tailgating, then heading into the stadium barely coherent.

Keep in mind, this is not for every parking lot - only the pre-sold ones.One option fans will have is parking farther away at a lot that isn’t pre-sold where tailgating all day isn’t affected and then finding their way to the game. Some of those lots are fairly close by but others are not. Specifically, an option is given in the release of parking in town at the PPG Paints Arena lots. Fans could then head down the hill and hop on the T to the stadium. Still, those Ts will be very crowded with so many people going and fans could find themselves waiting to get onto one for quite a while.

The best bet for anyone wanting to tailgate all day seems to be parking a little further away where tailgating isn’t restricted and also close enough where walking is still an option. Even that will almost certainly require you to get to one of those lots relatively early. And if you’ve got a pre-sold parking pass, you’re going to be paying twice for parking in that scenario, too. That’s less of an issue, I imagine, but still kind of annoying.

Another option that I know some fans with pre-sold passes are contemplating is buying parking for the Pirates game as well. Having passes for both, as the release says, would allow someone to get into the lot earlier then remain there for the Pitt game. But what I don’t know is if you could still tailgate during the 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. time even if you have both. The release specifically says that no tailgating will be allowed during those hours because they want to be able to get cars in and out of the lot. So even if you have a pass for both, I’m not sure how that will affect a tailgate-all-day plan. Will they come around and ask people to put grills away and such? No sir, you may not open that 8th can of Schlitz until 5:00 p.m.

Is this part of a plan to try to discourage fans from being completely lit up like Christmas trees before the game? I mean, maybe. But fans will have plenty of time to get drunk if they so choose, anyway, by going to a nearby restaurant, tailgating elsewhere, or simply binging before the game during that 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. window. People that are there to get drunk won’t be discouraged by something like this.

It more likely is about trying to avoid as much traffic gridlock around the stadium for folks trying to get in and out of the Pirates game. And the fact that it will drive some Pitt fans to buy parking for the Pirates game isn’t bad for the ALCO folks, either. But, if the lots are only open at 5:00 p.m., that just means that there’s going to be a ton of gridlock at that time for Pitt fans when everyone’s trying to get in at once.

Here’s the thing. This really will benefit two of the three groups affected - the Pirates and ALCO. It does nothing for Pitt, really. Maybe you’ve got a few less drunk people but you also might have more if fans are showing up earlier to the lots that are further away. Blaming this on Pitt isn’t really fair and I can’t imagine they’re all that thrilled with the prospect of annoying their fanbase, either. They know this won’t go over well.

The problem, of course, is that the game occurs on a day when the Pirates play. No Pirates, no problem. But that’s part of the issue when you’re playing off-campus and in a city with professional sports teams. Sometimes there’s no easy fix.

Whoever you want to blame for this mess, there’s no doubt that it’s going to alter quite a few plans this weekend.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill’s Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.