The Parking Thing

Submitted by Brian on July 31st, 2009 at 11:28 AM

So I posted up a press release that was sent to me and various other folks by the AAGO, the entity that is in charge of the golf course and the parking therein. In it, the Powers That Be make some mumbles about listening to the protest and complaints from people who've been tailgating at the same spot since time began…

"We appreciate the time and effort that a number of people have taken to ask for reconsideration due to their desire to remain in private parking areas where they can be with the longtime friends and colleagues," said Larry Eiler, chairman of AAGO parking.

…and then immediately dispel any lingering hopes you might have that they actually gave a crap:

"We are disappointed at the decision of patrons to disagree with the new regulations, which were made for safety concerns."

Mmmm that's tasty public relations.

Before all this came down, I attempted to commit an act of journalism by reaching out to Eiler. We eventually settled on some emailed questions, the gist of which boiled down to "people have complained and we will make an announcement." The tone of the conversation was similar to the above:

It interests me that everyone just ignores the serious safety issue posed by people who place tents, cookers, tables, chairs, games in the manner shown in the photos attached from last year's M State game.

The following photos from second fairway 08 MSU game.  They thus occupy ingress and egress routes for emergency vehicles and create an unsafe environment.

This is the "serious safety issue":

IMG_1339

I guess if someone had a major medical issue it would be difficult for them to get out, and according to a commenter on the press release there have been some recent incidents:

Apparently, within the past couple years, there has been at least one heart attack and one broken leg on the course during football saturday tailgates. I guess some dude was tossing a football around and ran off the top side of a steep fairway bunker and fractured his leg. The emergency services took a long time to make it back to the scene due to the parking situation. If it had been a broken neck, the guy likely would have died.

Not sure about details on the heart attack, except the guy was closer to the front and managed to walk to the clubhouse.

The police, insurance company, worried board members, all felt that it was necessary to prevent any potential future disasters by ensuring that there are clear paths for emergency vehicles to enter.

So the canopy thing, whatever. Be stricter about clearing some aisleways, sure. It's a litigious country. I wish we lived in a place where you just sort of accepted "hey if I keel over on this golf course during a tailgate there's a slightly reduced chance I make it." We don't. I think the safety thing is a pretty silly mandate but silly mandates are par for the course (HA! I kill me!) when suin' looms.

However, I fail to see what this has to do with not reserving spots. Everyone ignores the serious safety issue posed by people who place tents and whatnot everywhere because they don't care about the rule change associated with it. No one has complained about the canopy thing. They do not care. They care an awful lot about having their tailgate disrupted.

A lot of people cared enough about it to raise a stink; if you just got over yourself and sat down with them there was an opportunity to work something out. One idea off the cuff: sell season passes in certain areas that can be revoked if the parking there ends up unsafe. Sell specific—specifically orderly—spots. Everyone wins.

Instead no one wins. There was an opportunity to make a little more money and keep the people who really care about this happy, and it was condescendingly rejected. The main reason appears to be that the tailgaters got too outraged and accused the AAGO of being money-grubbing so-and-sos. In response the AAGO said "well, I never" and lifted their noses skyward, refusing to… gah… parley with those ruffians.

The AAGO leadership failed spectacularly here. Kevin Werner on AnnArbor.com:

"It's a shame - a real shame that the traditions of hundreds and relationships of many and a special aspect of this community is giving way to stubbornness."

Word.

Postscript. The most unbelievable part of all this is that all of the emails from Eiler come from "Larry Eiler PR." The guy runs a public relations firm. PROTIP: you should not hire it any circumstances whatsoever.

Comments

WindyCityBlue

July 31st, 2009 at 11:41 AM ^

I used to manage the big b-school tailgates at AAGO (located at the northwest corner of the course). He got more and more fickle about our set-up every week and about went crazy when we burst a water sprinkler main with a stake (although I can understand that). So, this is no surprise to me, and to be quite honest, no big deal. I have a gut feeling that they will tinker with the rule again after this season.

Blazefire

July 31st, 2009 at 11:45 AM ^

As a PR guy myself, I would like to vomit. This is an ATROCIOUS piece of work.

Also, it won't work. The thing you do when people violate parking is tow them. How the heck are you gonna tow 10,000 cars when they all ignore the parking attendants?

matty blue

July 31st, 2009 at 11:49 AM ^

...i mean, i see why people are upset and/or disappointed, but seriously - what if it HAD been a broken neck, and someone really HAD died because emergency services couldn't reach them? isn't that, you know, bad? and wouldn't that be a really, really big p.r. nightmare? "man dies at golf course tailgate party: emergency vehicles unable to pass."

i put this in the same category as seat belts, or condoms, or designated drivers, or speed limits...sometimes you give up some freedom when you want everyone to be just a little bit safer. i'm no ron paul, but i'm usually in the "freedom" camp. in this case, however, it seems like a pretty small freedom that's being given up.

tactically, though - how would you have written the press release? you acknowledge that it's an unpopular decision but that the decision has been made for this reason...i don't see that as stubbornness as much as, well, explanation of the thought process. that it's unpopular doesn't make it poor p.r.

wile_e8

July 31st, 2009 at 12:05 PM ^

While you are right that someone dying would be a PR nightmare, the part of the rules changes that is bothering people the most is being assigned a parking spot based on when they arrive as opposed to being able to pick where they park. People who have been parking in the same area for years will have to arrange entering together in order to have spots together, and people who normally visit tailgates of friends will find this much more difficult. As someone who used to frequently visit a tailgate in the Crisler lot before construction forced it to move, this would be a pain in the ass search instead of just walking to the same parking spot every Saturday. This change has nothing to do with safety, as cars will be parked off to the side either way. The canopy change, however, makes sense when thinking about emergency access, as shown in the picture Brian included in his post. Why assigned spots was included as a safety precaution is never explained.

UNCWolverine

July 31st, 2009 at 12:21 PM ^

yep, the safety thing is the PR shield that the AAGO is hiding behind. Here are the two real issues...

AAGO: The real reason this is happening is so they can stack more cars on the course for more $$$$.

Everyone in the free world - AAGO: Being able to park in the same spot for every game every year. I would like the AAGO to address how this practice is a safety issue.

DCBlue

July 31st, 2009 at 11:59 AM ^

Isn't tailgating ANYWHERE near the Stadium kind of a congested f'ing nightmare? We have a spot in a University parking lot near Hoover and Greene. Been there for years. Tents, coolers, chairs, cookers everywhere. If I fractured my leg or had a heart attack at our tailgate, I'd fully expect major delays in extracting my sorry ass from the scene. It's to be expected, and I'm a fucking lawyer for shit's sake. Just make people pay a bit more and keep some semblance of fire lanes. And really, are those fold up chairs in the photo really that big of problem? People will move shit for ambulances. Immediately.

Erik_in_Dayton

July 31st, 2009 at 12:00 PM ^

"It interests me that everyone just ignores the serious safety issue posed by people who place tents, cookers, tables, chairs, games in the manner shown in the photos attached from last year's M State game.

The following photos from second fairway 08 MSU game. They thus occupy ingress and egress routes for emergency vehicles and create an unsafe environment."

Let it be resolved:
1. No traffic other than emergency vehicles shall henceforth be allowed on any US highway, street, roadway, or passageway of any kind;
2. Grilling out shall be banned as grilled foods tend to be high in fat, leading to increased chance of heart failure and obesity;
3. Being outdoors shall be discouraged, or banned outright, as it increases the likelihood of skin cancer, wind burn, tripping on tree roots, and the inconveniencing of wildlife;
4. All persons shall at all times wear kevlar vests and scuba gear in order to decrease the possibility of death from gunshot wound or flash flooding; and
5. The government shall begin seeding clouds in order to make them rain hand sanitizer.

Artermis

July 31st, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

I wonder if the board members are the same one who would stomp on RR's A$$ if he tried to change any real tradition at UM.

Just like this is a litigious country...it is also a country full of hypocrite do what I say now what I do.

You make valid points and offer solutions Brian. It is a shame that so many people's tradition is being thrown out without a care in the world.

DCBlue

July 31st, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

100 lawyers is level 4 of the Inferno. However, all it will take is having Suellyn Scarnecchia, Michigan's General Counsel, sitting down with AAGO and Ann Arbor public safety folks and saying "here's what we are going to do." This isn't even an intellectual exercise in law. It's an exercise in logistics and street smarts. And having taken classes with her when she was a law prof, I know that Suellyn has the benefit of all three. Hope the GC's offices brings some common sense to this.

UNCWolverine

July 31st, 2009 at 12:10 PM ^

For some people including myself and my friends this is going to turn tailgating into an absolute nightmare. Just like hundreds/thousands of other tailgate groups we have settled into the same "meeting spot" for 10+ years now. Many of my friends now live all over the country and have kept their season tickets. We always knew where our friends would be at every game so we didn't have to coordinate with a million people on where to meet when get into town.

I personally now live in Los Angeles and will be at 3 home games this year. Now I get to spend half my morning calling/texting friends trying to figure out where everyone is tailgating. And I'm sure that will not work as there will be a thousand others trying to do the exact same thing so cell service will inevitably not work.

Great decision AAGO.

go blue.

chelseaanimal

July 31st, 2009 at 12:14 PM ^

I travel every fall to a different college football venue with friends (going to Alabama in 2009, this the 18th year). It amazes me that on any given Saturday there are dozens and dozens of tailgates going on and that M can't find a better solution by looking around. For a case in point, one need only look at the mecca of college football tailgating (if not a mecca of college football), Ole Miss. They blow a horn at 6 PM on Friday and the Mississippi equivalent of the Oklahoma land rush ensues. Hunter, Anna Belle Lee, and their wagon 'o tailgating paraphernalia find themselves competing for spots within a chalk-lined grid. Tents are set up cheek-to-hog-jowls and anyone that puts so much as a pinky toe across the line is moved or removed. The tents can hold everything from persian rugs and candelabras to styrofoam coolers and paper cups, but by-god ingress and egress is assured. Not to mention it makes it easy to wander through the tents admiring and marveling at the lengths tailgaters will go to (no surprise to find the Ole Miss motto is "we may lose the game, but we will win the party"). If they want a good fix, they can find one.

Wes Mantooth

July 31st, 2009 at 1:03 PM ^

Agreed- it's awesome that you've made that an annual trip. I've read more stories and seen more pictures of awesome tailgates than I can count, but I haven't really been to any of them. I've been meaning to try and organize a trip or two to some of these other schools (Ole Miss is high on my list) and now that I'm a few years out of college I think my friends and I can finally afford it.

MichIOE01

July 31st, 2009 at 12:45 PM ^

Rope off, paint, or in some way designate fire lanes. You can park/set up anything anywhere as long as those lanes are kept clear. They can be golf cart width, or full ambulance width. Whatever. But assigned parking spots has nothing to do with safety.

Also, what happens if you just ignore the person directing you to a spot and go park where you want? Happens all the time in many parking lots.

Wolverine96

July 31st, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

If this and if that. If there was an emergency all of the items "blocking" the path can be moved. None of them are cemented into the ground. There are two issues here. 1) Is the ability to park in the same spot as we have been for the last 15 years and 2) the safety issue about keeping some pathways clear so IF an emergecny occurs, carts can get by. They are not mutually exclusive. You can have both.

It comes down to enforcement. I would make the arguement (in fact I did to Mr. Eiler) that the folks who have been been tailgating in the same spots for 10, 20 years are not the problem. These are AAG&O's best customers. We treat our tailgating spot like a 2nd home 8 Saturday's a year. We are the tailgaters you want on your course as we treat it with respect.

The issues that AAG&O is saying they are trying to get rid of with the new policies can and will occur at every big home game without strict enforcement from 20 club wielding bouncers from Scorekeepers. It is more likely to occur as you are going to see more people who are parking there as a place of last resort and figure that for $40 they can do as they wish.

AAG&O is going to find out that this is going to cost them more in the long run. A well run business never should alienate their best customers. AAG&O just did and we shall see if they pay a price for it.

stubob

July 31st, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

Good point. Safety and parking organization aren't mutually exclusive. Want to make sure emergency vehicles can get through? Then enforce clear pathways. People parking in the wrong spots/parking together does not cause the problem.

As far as packing as many people in as possible, why not do like state parks do, and reserve parking spots online? (this requires AAG&O to use the intertubes)? People can pick their spots ahead of time, make their groups, and still have some open spots for late-comers and whatnot. It would be harder than just waving everyone into the next available slot, so I'm sure it would fall on deaf ears.

But I'm sure that ultimately demand > supply, so the long-timers will have no recourse but to go elsewhere, while AAG&O will still fill the lot and be happy about it.

But, I'm in Denver, so this whole issue is largely academic to me.

lexus larry

July 31st, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

so many replies and retorts I have.

Re: broken neck or limbs. This falls into that nether place, where, if it were to happen at a residence or church, would the lawsuit really occur? Difficult ingress/egress there, too, so...

And then there's the full season assigned parking. So hard to make work, unless you're a Victors Club member, where you pay for rent-a-cops. Even then, look at the lot around Crisler or the east side of the stadium. When I first went to tailgate down there, the lanes were kind of open. Walking today, if you're not paying attention, you'll trip over a barbecue, a HD flat screen, generator, get knocked over by nerf tossing kids, etc. As stated, this happens everywhere.

The church where I tailgate tried the pre-paid season pass, but wouldn't enforce assigned slots. And then there were the people who arrived super-early, didn't pay, etc. And even getting Brewer's to tow those out was a challenge.

I liked the idea of grass-paint, and park where you want. How hard to gently enforce that? First time offender gets a warning, but the license plate number is jotted down. Easy enough to give people the opp to be a little better managed and behaved.

And as already noted, all this doesn't really get into the issue of "creep" of the games, barbecues etc. Yeah, the canopy is now closer to the vehicle. But all that other stuff on my checklist, the table, coolers, chairs, bbq, games, just moves on out. And yeah, how hard is it to move that stuff out of the way if a beeping golfcart or klaxoning ambulance needs to come through?

All part of the Michigan Experience!!!!

goblubigguy

July 31st, 2009 at 4:08 PM ^

I graduated from UM Law School and am a member of AAGO, so I realize that I have two strikes against me due to such tawdry characteristics. Therefore, form your opinions before reading my comments and don't let facts get in the way of those opinions.

AAGO was formed in the 1890's so it existed well before the stadium. Its primary objective is to provide golf, tennis and food amenities or services to its members. The parking is a collateral financial benefit to the club but requires a lot of work and expense to effectively manage. It is not just stuffing a bunch of cash into pockets.

Walking around the parking area on football game days is just a fun thing to observe, though many of the parking participants get a tad rowdy and may not move as easily as some of the other posters suggest. The dialogue between Wolverines and visiting fans is great to watch (certainly better than most of the games last year).

Contrary to the cynics, safety is a concern and AAGO does not desire to be on the defending side of litigation that would surely evolve from a serious injury in the parking area if sufficient safeguards are not taken. Contrary to some of the parking areas on the front lawns of a house, AAGO has real assets that it desires to protect from the unfortunate result of litigation.

Further, from a reasonable economic point of view, why should someone pay for one parking spot and then occupy two or three with their canopies, tents or whatever? One would think that AAGO could address this issue to find a reasonable solution that would be amenable to the parking patrons. But let's get real, do any of you give your customers two-for-one just because they want that?

On the other hand, it would seem to me that AAGO should also investigate some way to enable groups of patrons that desire to park there to either reserve or otherwise provide for a number of cars to park together even though they may arrive at different times. I have no idea how difficult that would be to administer and perhaps some construction criticism could be provided to address that issue.

The concept of painting yellow lines on the golf course is just silly. The course gets damaged from barbeques, etc. as many of the patrons just dump their grill residue on the course. Painting yellow lines takes that abuse one step further and may lead one to conclude that some of the parking patrons really don't give a crap about the property.

So there you go.

Wolverine96

July 31st, 2009 at 4:43 PM ^

Using 8 paragraphs where 1 would do. Just kidding. What I gather you saying, is that there was a happy medium somewhere in this that AAG&O chose to ignore. I am not a member of AAG&O, though some of our tailgate group are members. They are very displeased with this decision as well.

That said, the groups of tailgaters who want to be able to park in the same spot as they have for the last X years are not the problem. They are not the ones causing the problems. It all comes down to enforcment of the rules regardless of where people are parked. Forcing people to park in certain area's is not going to stop the tents from moving away from cars, grills and games from being placed in pathways etc. The loyal customers issues could have been addressed as well as meeting the concerns over liability. There were many viable solutions presented to Larry Eiler and he chose to ignore them.

If the true goal of AAG&O is to limit liability, ban tailgating or only allow members to park there. Otherwise, this on top of a 400% increase in cost over the last 10 years looks like a money grab to many of us.

S.G. Rice

July 31st, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

I belong to a golf club that's not AAGO and lines are painted on the course on a regular basis - marking of ground under repair, for scramble events, etc.

It's grass. It grows. You mow it. The lines disappear.

Hardly abusive, and a simple way to identify lanes that need to be kept clear.

KBLOW

July 31st, 2009 at 5:24 PM ^

FWIW: Back in '97 I volunteered with the 1st UU Church to direct traffic for parking at the AAGO. (We got some very, very minor cut of the gate.) Anyway, at least half of the folks coming in would just ignore us and go park where they wanted. It was a bit annoying, but I never thought the situation was dangerous and at least back then there was plenty of space to get an ambulance far into the course.

I have no idea what's it's been like since then b/c a month into the season we bought a house on Belmar and Potter, (just one block from the stadium!) and were busy making mint parking cars on our own lawn.

Lumpers

August 1st, 2009 at 7:21 AM ^

AAGO hides behind the veil of a private organization and doesn't really bother to come up with a palatable solution that meets their safety/insurance requirements and addresses their customers needs. Its disappointing to say the least and I have to deal with lawyers every day to turn their requirements into palatable customer solutions.

A simple round table with a 15 or 20 long time patrons could have figured this out and met the needs of all parties. As I don't have all the details, i will make some assumptions. But it appears that the people that want to park near each other could be accomodated by having zones of parking and AAGO can charge accordingly for parking in these preferred zones. Others that don't care will be channeled to general parking areas spots as they arrive. AAGO gets add'l revenues by providing this preferred service and all can get back to business and enjoy their gameday experience.

Of course the tent/grill regulations will be enforced by AAGO security and sheriff's dept to insure there are safe ingress/egress routes, because they have no choice in the matter if they want adequate insurance. People will complain but at the end of the day understand why it exists and we all move on and adapt a bit.

Why AAGO did not follow a process something as simple as this, is disappointing, and gives people another reason to rail on the "private club" mindset that will always be vilified in such a liberal area like A2.