Monday, June 24, 2024

Alexander: No parking for LAFC’s MLS Cup game … big problem?

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Imagine: In a city that is not only dependent on the automobile but might be the modern capital of car culture, a major event is going to take place this Saturday and not one single parking place on site will be available.

Who’s responsible for this mess, anyway?

To be totally accurate, nobody in particular. But a confluence of events has resulted in this scenario: LAFC will play Philadelphia for the MLS Cup championship before a sellout crowd of more than 22,500 at 1 p.m. in Banc of California Stadium, and its wildly supportive fans have been asked to arrive by subway, bus or a shuttle from Dodger Stadium.

There is no parking – none – available on the Exposition Park grounds, because USC plays Cal in its homecoming game on Saturday night at the Coliseum (with an expected crowd of more than 55,000), and USC has priority.

Again, who can you blame? We can as always start with the MLS TV partner (in this case, Fox) for its inflexibility, but that’s probably too simplistic.

The MLS Cup schedule was locked in months ago for this Saturday, 1 p.m. Pacific (and 4 p.m. Eastern), and as you might expect, it’s immovable for TV purposes. Part of the issue, in this case, is that it’s a month earlier than normal because of a November-December World Cup in Qatar. With an early December title game, as there has been in seven of the past eight seasons, there would be no USC conflict.

Since the host’s role goes to the team with the better regular-season record, the site wasn’t certain until Sunday, when Supporters’ Shield winner LAFC defeated Austin FC.

And college football scheduling is even more slapdash, again for the benefit of Pac-12 rights-holders Fox and ESPN. Routinely, Saturday game times are not set until 12 days earlier, and sometimes not until the Monday before a game. In this case, USC-Cal wasn’t going to be a nationally anticipated matchup, and it’s likely the 7:30 Coliseum start, announced on Oct. 24, was a hedge against a possible MLS Cup final next door.

That didn’t matter, for parking purposes. USC, by virtue of its contract with the Coliseum Commission (and, presumably, seniority and political clout as well), has first dibs on the lots and garages and tailgating areas throughout Exposition Park on any football game day.

“We are actually sub-tenants of USC, because USC at one point controlled the Coliseum and the Sports Arena,” the edifice that was razed in order to build the soccer stadium, LAFC co-president and CEO Larry Freedman said in a phone conversation Thursday.

“There is a calendaring system and there are priorities in the park. … And the way the park works is on a USC football day, it has priority, and with that goes parking in the park.”

With the California Science Center, the Expo Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum – and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art under construction – Exposition Park is a draw in several different ways. They, too, deal with the pecking order.

The LAFC people saw this potential for conflict coming four months ago, once their club jumped ahead in the race for the league’s best record, but what recourse did they have? The league (and network) are not changing the date or time, as we’ve noted. And forget moving it to another area venue, like the Rose Bowl; if you have the league’s best home-field advantage, in a stadium calibrated to achieve just that, why on earth would you give that up in the biggest match in team history?

It is exceedingly fortunate, then, that in a city that is still not mass transit-friendly in so many ways, the hub of activity happens to be within walking distance of a stop on the Metro E Line (formerly Expo Line). That is how most LAFC fans will have to get to and from the game, though it might be a challenge for members of the 3252 supporters group to get their flags and banners onto what figure to be crowded trains.

The instructions disseminated by LAFC earlier this week seem designed for those who don’t often use Metro, which probably means much of L.A.

From Union Station, fans can take the B and D Lines (formerly Red and Purple) to the 7th and Metro stop and transfer to the E Line, or can transfer from the A Line (Blue) to the E Line at the Pico stop, a block west of the Convention Center. The E Line will run every 12 minutes in that mid- to late-morning window, and there are a number of park-and-ride lots as noted on the team’s website at, as well as six different Metro bus lines that stop near the stadium.

Additionally, Uber and Lyft will pick up and drop off at the corner of Vermont and Exposition. And Dodger Stadium’s Lot 1, accessible through Gate A at Vin Scully Ave. and Stadium Way, will be a satellite parking location with free parking and shuttle bus service running continuously from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here are some other train suggestions: If you are coming from the San Gabriel Valley, you can pick up the L Line (formerly the Gold Line), starting in Azusa, to connect to Union Station. If you’re coming from the Inland Empire, Metrolink has two Saturday morning trains each on the 91/Perris Valley line and the San Bernardino line, while the Orange County line has one morning train to Union Station. Information and schedules:

LAFC is encouraging fans to arrive early, opening the stadium at 10:30 a.m. and offering half-price food and drink between 10:30 and 11:30. Either that will spread out the arrival of spectators, or the crush will be early rather than late.

By the time Saturday’s game is done and the people are headed home, I’m guessing a good number will have some new stories to tell about navigating L.A.’s transit system. But while this is relatively unprecedented for this town, Freedman noted that it’s not groundbreaking.

“Look, I happen to come from a town where there’s a major league baseball team that had a grand total of zero parking spots: Wrigley Field in Chicago,” he said. “Zero. And people figure it out.”

Here, I suspect it will be a more labored process.

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