Some basketball fans were surprised to see Buffalo parking rates doubled or more for the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament Thursday.
"Is this for the whole weekend?" a motorist asked a vendor of a Scott Street parking lot that was charging $50.
It was for one day.
The fan drove away.
Basketball fans paid anywhere from $20 to $50 to park Thursday near KeyBank Center. Parking lots on Scott Street charged $50, including one lot that is owned by The Buffalo News, but leased by a parking lot operator. A lot at the corner of Scott and Michigan lowered the price to $30 before the first game. Others on Scott dropped the fee to $40 after noon. By 2 p.m., the lots were slashed to $20.
For those who didn't mind walking a little farther, city-owned ramps such as One Seneca Tower were charging $10 for the day. And Allpro Parking charged $8 for a lot at the foot of Pearl Street, said Richard Serra of Allpro.
Many fans going to the game said they paid $20 to $30. The price was about what Stan Pustulka of Kenmore expected when he paid $30 to park off Michigan Avenue near the Thruway.
"Probably the going rate, I would think. This is $50 down here," he said, pointing to a lot, "and this is $25, but it looks like they're all full."
Parking is largely supply and demand, and operators of lots say the prices are driven by the market.
In downtown Milwaukee, where construction has reduced the number of parking spots, WISN 12 News reported finding spots going for $50 until 6:30 p.m. or $100 for the day at Milwaukee Area Technical College, near the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
And in Orlando, motorists could reserve a space in advance at some parking areas near the Amway Center, where NCAA tournament games were also being played. Prices ranged from $22 to $44, according to Parkwhiz.com.
Serra said drivers can reserve spots every day at Allpro lots through its website, allproparking.com. He said his lots charged the usual fee they charge for events, with a maximum of $25 for the lots closer to the center.
"We were very, very busy, we had to double our crew today to make sure we could accommodate everybody," he said.
Jim Sandoro, who owns a number of lots near KeyBank Center, said he did not increase the price at his lots, which charged a maximum of $20.
"We probably did not even pay for the plowing," he said. He said he had to pay to plow the lots and for extra people to work. "But we're happy to provide the space, because people wouldn't have had places to park."
Some lots closest to KeyBank Center were full at least a half hour before tipoff of the first game between Notre Dame and Princeton.
"We paid $25 at the KeyBank Center lot," said Mike Bonham of Toronto.
He and his buddy, Jeff Gerstl, were in town "to see some good basketball," Gerstl said. They weren't phased by the price.
Some area residents knew where to park for less.
"We parked on Seneca Street," said Jason Howard of Hamburg.
He and Spencer Sticek, also of Hamburg, did not mind walking a few more blocks in the cold after paying $20 to park.
"I think we expected it," Pustulka said.
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