City announces temporary traffic plan for Enmarket Arena opening

Enmarket Arena is almost ready for guests, but getting to the arena won’t be as simple as simply getting to the arena—at least for a little while.

The City of Savannah announced that the arena is on schedule to make its Jan. 13 opening, but the parking lots won’t be done until June 2022. In a memo to Mayor Van Jones and the city aldermen, city manager Joseph Melder revealed an interim parking plan for arena events. 

“The opening of the Enmarket Arena is an exciting milestone for this community, and will be a great addition to Savannah’s westside,” Melder wrote. “But it is a big change, and we will work with our stakeholders to manage that change.”

Eight temporary lots will open on Stiles avenue, holding approximately 1,600 spaces total. Oak View Group, the arena operator, will require attendees to reserve parking spots through their online ticket portal. Two churches have agreed to allow Oak View Group to use their parking lots.

Operators will shut down Feely avenue. during events. The road will serve as a rideshare and shuttle drop-off and pick-up zone. Oak View Group will provide shuttles from Savannah’s Historic District. 

Savannah police will manage other key intersections, while temporary traffic lights and arena workers will direct drivers within the parking lots. The city contracted traffic consultants Walker Consultants and Jacobs to develop the plan

The city will also use traffic control contractors Area Wide Protective to lay traffic cones, drop barriers and place resident-only parking signs to protect surrounding residential areas. Violators risk being towed, the memo says. Despite these precautions, however, Melder still expects hassles for residents.

“There will be disruptions, and residents who live in the neighborhoods near the Arena will experience elevations in traffic in the hour before and after events,” Melder wrote. “While these disruptions will likely be greater in this four-month interim period, we will likely experience many of the same neighborhood impacts even after our permanent parking and road projects are complete.”

Melder attributes the delay of the remaining infrastructure to COVID complications, labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions. The remaining projects include the widening of Stiles avenue, Gwinnett street and the Springfield Canal as well as the 2,000-space parking lot itself.

Enmarket arena is on schedule for its first event on Jan. 14. However, according to Melder, future large events could be in jeopardy if the temporary traffic pattern proves problematic.    

“There will be a period of trial and error as we adjust to changing traffic patterns,” Melder wrote “If we decide the impacts of these temporary parking and traffic solutions are too great on surrounding residents, and the Enmarket Arena product is too poor for customers, we will cancel large shows until our infrastructure is complete.”

Riley Green plays the arena in what the City is calling a “soft opening.” The arena’s full opening won’t come until Feb. 19, when the Eagles come to town. 

The venue will also house Savannah’s new ECHL hockey team, the Ghost Pirates, who open their season later this year.

About The Author

Jason Birkelbach

Jason is a writer but only when he's writing. He likes margaritas, the Office, and a keen eye for sarcasm. Despite the health hazards, he is a vehement Mets fan.
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