The Wilmington City Council has voted unanimously to create a new parking fee for the Wilmington Convention Center Parking Deck, retroactive to Sept. 1.
The change would allow attendees of a short-term event at the facility, defined as any function that lasts three hours or less between the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, to pay a flat fee of $5. The current flat rate for event parking is $8, which will still apply to weekend events and those lasting longer than three hours.
According to the Convention Center Advisory Committee, which proposed the ordinance amendment, the request came as a result of concern for the organizations holding short-term weekday events at the facility. While the cost of breakfast or luncheon events have stayed the same, parking rates have increased 75 percent over the last couple of years, with the latest increases going into effect this past July. Officials were concerned that event organizers, who often pay for their attendees’ parking fees, would leave the convention center for another venue due to the rising cost.
“I see this completely as a marketing issue,” said Councilmember Kevin O’Grady.
The committee estimated that if these events were to relocate, the annual parking revenue loss would be $17,500 based on 2,500 vehicles and the annual loss of food sales and rental space based would be $85,000 based on 5,700 people.
“I’m more concerned about the business portion of it,” said Mayor Bill Saffo. “There may be three or four groups that we might have to refund [if we make it retroactive], but that’s fine with me. I’m more concerned about losing the business.”
The hourly rate at the deck, located at the corner of North Water Street and Estell Lee Drive, is $3 for the first hour, $2 each for the second and third hours, and $1 for each subsequent hour with a daily maximum of $13. The $5 flat rate fee is based on the existing hourly scale.