"The Sports Arena sold... their land to AM/PM and Krispy Kreme," said Norm Leggio, owner of Blue Meannie Records. Because of this, Leggio maintains there's a lot less parking for the Sports Arena than there used to be. "People had to park all the way down the street past Tower Records."
Leggio, who also cohosts the all-metal Another State of Mind Sunday nights on Rock 105.3, was miffed at the lack of parking for the sold-out "Rock Before Christmas" show presented by his station. More than 14,000 turned out to see Metallica and Godsmack on the night before Thanksgiving. It was the first time the Sports Arena had hosted such a well-attended show since the new Krispy Kreme, Arco AM/PM, and Chili's were built on land previously used for Sports Arena parking.
According to Ernie Hahn, Sports Arena general manager, the Sports Arena parking lot used to hold 4000 cars. Now he says that count is down to 3300. Those three businesses were opened between late 2002 and March of this year.
"We only have a concert with that many people once every three or four years," said Hahn. The Sports Arena has a 12,000-person capacity. But in its theater-in-the-round configuration, which it used for Metallica, it can hold 14,000. "The last time we had this many people here for a concert was U2 in 2001."
Hahn said he worked out an arrangement with the adjacent SAIC building to handle overflow parking, but that the Target center across the street would not oblige.
Hahn said he did not hear of any cars getting towed at the Metallica show. "For having 14,000, we handled it pretty good."
Meanwhile an ad hoc committee formed by city councilman Michael Zucchet came up with the idea that the best use of the Sports Arena property is that it be torn down. The committee maintains that the hall should be razed and replaced by condos and more stores.