Did Great Lakes Aquarium miss a chance to make money?If you wanted to park close to Bentleyville, you had a choice: pay $4 to park in front of Bayfront Festival Park, or wait a bit and park free at the Great Lakes Aquarium.
By: Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune
If you wanted to park close to Bentleyville, you had a choice: pay $4 to park in front of Bayfront Festival Park, or wait a bit and park free at the Great Lakes Aquarium.
When the lot was staffed, parking at the aquarium cost $4 and would generally stay open until 8 p.m., aquarium executive director Jack LaVoy said.
After Christmas, however, he said the lot was open free of charge after 6 p.m.
“So, basically, parking from 6 to 10 is free,” he said. “There wasn’t as much attendance parking there as there was prior to Christmas.”
But a Bentleyville volunteer who assisted with parking and traffic management, Dan Niemi, said he has seen hundreds of cars park in the lot for free. During the nights of Dec. 28 to Dec. 30, he said, the lot would average 50 to 75 free parkers a night.
The News Tribune watched 11 vehicles carrying Bentleyville visitors park in the unattended aquarium lot between
7 and 7:30 p.m. on a chilly New Year’s Eve. Such volumes could generate revenues of $44 per half hour or $88 per hour.
“That’s a lot of money they’re not picking up,” Niemi said. “I’m a taxpayer, too. I don’t understand why they need all this bailout money and they have the perfect opportunity to make money.”
One of the volunteers who helped manage traffic and pedestrians for Bentleyville, Turk Aanonsen, said even before Christmas the aquarium lot would close and more than 100 cars would park free in the lot in a single night.
“It’s alarming because they have a supposed lack of funds,” Aanonsen said.
The aquarium, which is slated to get $225,000 in tourism tax money from the city this year , was seeing diminished returns after certain times of night, LaVoy said, so that keeping the lot staffed “wasn’t worth the investment.”
“If there was more than 15 minutes between cars, we would close it up,” LaVoy said. “There’s not enough to keep the staff on.”
News Tribune staff writer Peter Passi contributed to this story.