With a smaller expected attendance at the Drake Relays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parking may not be as much of an issue as it has been in prior years.
“[In a] typical year, we get somewhere between 10 and 17,000 people a day,” Director of Public Safety Scott Law said. “But this year, obviously, with COVID, we’re going to have much smaller numbers of attendance, somewhere around 3,100 people or so a day.”
Even with the reduced numbers, that is still more people than visitor parking on campus is equipped to hold, and some lots will be closed off for Relays events during that week.
“What we typically see is lot number 18 north and south, which are the stadium lots, will be closed to general use,” Law said. “They’ll be used for both media as well as for other special parking that during Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Lot four is also a reserved lot during the Relays. That’s where they bring in officials, and some of the competitors will come into that lot in all likelihood.”
With limited parking options, Law said that some visitors have tried to park in residential or closed-off lots in prior years.
“We do not allow visitors to park in residential spots,” Law said. “So the residence halls will have patrol trying to keep people out of parking in any of our overnight residential lots. We tend to see people park almost in all of our other lots throughout.”
In normal years, Law said that Drake Public Safety will partner with private security companies to enforce parking regulations. However, with reduced attendance due to the pandemic, he does not foresee the need for private security this year.
“In past years, we have hired an outside security company to have a presence in the morning till about 9 or 10 to make sure that we could get all of our students, faculty and staff into parking,” Law said. “But with the much reduced numbers this year, I don’t think that’s going to be something that we’re going to do as part of our operation.”
According to Law, there will be an increased presence of Public Safety around campus to prevent parking violations.
“We will of course enforce all handicap regulations,” Law said. “So if someone parked in a handicap space and does not have a handicap permit, those cars will be towed away. If they park on the grass or block our loading docks or block paths in the parking lots, preventing cars from being able to move around, they will be towed.”
Law said that traffic in the area will likely increase, especially during the high school events.
“As you can imagine, parents want to come see their kids compete,” Law said. “So that does increase the traffic around our area. My guess is Thursday’s going to be probably some of the heaviest traffic we’re going to see. But I think we’ll see a good number of folks on Friday and Saturday during the day as well.”
Junior Ivan Torres experienced firsthand the difficulty driving around campus and parking during Relays week his freshman year at Drake.
“It was pretty busy in the area so it took me longer than usual to find a spot,” Torres said. “I think they could add or expand parking, especially for visitors that come for on-campus events. They could also try to make it more clear which lots are for which groups and where people are supposed to park.”
Law’s advice to residential students during Relays week: don’t drive if you don’t have to.
“I strongly encourage you if you’re a student, the less you have to drive on Thursday and Friday, the better,” Law said. “I strongly encourage you to park your car and leave your car where it is. It will make your life a lot easier. If you’re a residential student, my suggestion is walk.”