Parrotheads, beware! Once you've had your fill of Margaritaville, you can wind up stranded in the land of the inescapable parking lot -- and this warning doesn't just apply to Jimmy Buffett fans, either.
Anyone attending any concert at Nissan Pavilion near Gainesville is likely to end up in parking lot prison. The parking situation at Nissan is infamous. Local deejays joke about spending hours trying to get into the pavilion and out again. But until I experienced the process myself, I had no idea just how bad it could be.
My wife and I left work at 4 p.m. June 15, figuring four hours was more than enough time to get to Nissan Pavilion for the sold-out Buffett show at 8 p.m. The 30-odd-mile trip from Arlington to Gainesville took us 90 minutes. That was bad enough, but far worse was to come when we tried to go home after the concert.
With visions of pirates and lighthouses dancing in our heads, we got to our car, which we had parked in a new, off-site lot. And there we sat for two hours. That's right, the show ended at 11 p.m., and we sat in the lot with thousands of other people in cars until after 1 a.m.
Luckily, most people were in good spirits after the show and took the wait in stride. Some took out coolers and grills and had a wee-hours cookout.
We had a 1-year-old waiting at home, and we were initially upset about the delay. But after the first hour of going nowhere, we became resigned too. I listened to the news on the radio -- over and over. My wife took a nap.
Nissan parking lots are served by only one road. Drivers lucky enough -- or smart enough -- to get there way ahead of most everyone else park near the entrance. Others, even if they arrive two or three hours before an event, get stuck after the show, unable to leave until thousands of cars in front of them exit onto a two-lane road. The kind souls who waved the patrons into parking spots in the early evening sensibly go home early, leaving only two police officers to direct traffic.
The result is a staggering wait, followed by a mad dash around bags of trash and broken bottles to get out of the lot once the line does start to move. Couple this with drivers who have had plenty of time to partake of a few more beers, and the result is more of a demolition derby than a happy ending to a nice night under the stars.
There has to be a better way. The builders of Nissan Pavilion clearly spent millions on developing an alternative to the aging Merriweather Post Pavilion. Now they need to spend a bit more to build more entrances and exits and to provide enough staff so that concertgoers can leave within a reasonable time once an event is over.
My wife and I really enjoyed Jimmy Buffett. From now on, though, we'll only be going to shows at the easily accessible MCI Center.
-- Mitch Katz