I doubt the average person really puts all that much thought into their parking garage experience, other than to remember exactly where they left their car so they can avoid the embarrassment of driving around with a security guard trying to find their vehicle (which, unfortunately, has happened to me more than once).
There is a good reason for peoples’ ennui when it comes to parking structures; the space is usually designed to be utilitarian and convenient, not visually stimulating or appealing. I think most would agree that a “good” garage is one that you are able to get into and out of quickly and efficiently, who cares what it looks like in the rearview mirror as you motor away.
In addition to convenience, safety is probably another top of mind issue most people have with parking facilities, not surprising when you consider how Hollywood has conditioned us to view the structures. In “movieland,” it seems everything bad starts or ends in a parking garage, whether it is the passing of high-level government information (All The President’s Men), being shot by corrupt cops (Witness), blowing up a financial district by using garage-parked van bombs (Fight Club), a shootout involving ransom money (Fargo), being chased by an unstoppable cyborg bent on murder (Terminator)… the list is truly endless. Try to think of a movie where something spiritually uplifting actually takes place in a multi-level parking structure… it is not easy.
That said, it appears that parking garage reputation is on the uptick, at least in the gaming industry. There is a sound economic reason for this—aging land-based casino customers want to park their cars in areas sheltered from weather and close to casino doors, and facilities that meet these goals are seeing a boom in business. Indeed, a study conducted by Thalden Boyd Emery (TBE) Architects found the non-gaming amenity that produced the highest increased drop for a casino enterprise was, wait for it, the parking garage, which boosted drop by 74 percent.
“Most operators will say they do not want to spend money on parking garages because the return on investment is not there,” said Rich Emery, president and design principal for TBE during a panel discussion at least year’s G2E. “This is not the case. A parking garage makes gaming more convenient to the consumer. It can take some of the worst weather days with rain, snow, sleet or extreme heat and make them profitable.”
The gaming industry seems to concur with this observation, given the spate of better designed, high-end parking facilities that are starting to crop up at casino resorts across the country. For example, the new parking garage at Seminole Hard Rock Tampa features a walkway where guests can take a self-guided memorabilia “rock walk” tour, which showcases over 100 prized memorabilia pieces, including new items from artists such as Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi, Nicki Minaj and many more.
Even more impressive is the new “intelligent” parking garage that recently opened at Pechanga Resort & Casino. The structure includes wayfinding systems and 46 electric vehicle charging stations. Electronic sensors on each floor communicate available spaces to lights above each stall, and to space counter boards for greatest ease of use. These additions help cut down the time guests spend circling for available spots. The edifice also features solar panels on the roof top that can generate about 650 kilowatts, which is enough renewable energy to power approximately 100 homes.
Who knows… with casinos leading the way, maybe public opinion on parking garages will change. Perhaps the next remake of An Affair to Remember will have the lovers agreeing to meet at a nicely-appointed, multi-deck parking garage instead of the stodgy old Empire State Building.