Parking for Garth Brooks Saturday concerts will be awful; plan now

Traffic in and around Fresno State will be a mess this weekend – thank you, Garth Brooks.

The country singer is playing four shows at the Save Mart Center over the course of three days, including a Saturday night double header with shows at 7 and 10:30 p.m. More than 25,000 people are expected to pass in and out of the arena in just a matter of hours. Add to that Fresno State football, which hosts the University of Tulsa in a 1:30 p.m. game at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, and you have a situation that Sean McElhinney, the Save Mart Center assistant general manager, calls “extreme.” He stops short of giving it a nickname such as “Car-mageddon.”

But, he says, “We’re planning for extreme traffic conditions.”

That plan includes additional staffing and signage, and diverting incoming and outgoing traffic throughout the evening. Barstow Avenue east of Cedar Avenue will be temporarily closed to accommodate traffic leaving the Fresno State football game. Parking for Brooks’ 7 p.m. show will be available in the lot just north of the arena on Matoian Way, and in adjacent lots, P5 and P6, on the Fresno State campus. Fans attending the 10:30 p.m. show will be directed to Save Mart Center’s east lot, just off Chestnut Avenue, or to lots P1and P2 along Shaw avenue. Fans arriving from the north will be directed into lot P6.

Pickup and drop-off for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft will be available along Shaw Avenue.

You should expect traffic delays and plan to arrive early. That is especially important for the 7 p.m. show, McElhinney says.

“There is no opening act. He’s coming onstage at 7 o’clock,” he says. Getting everyone into the arena quickly means the show can start on time and keeps the entire evening on schedule.

It is not unheard of for the arena to see multiple events in a single day – with Cirque du Soleil or “Walking with Dinosaurs” or springtime graduation ceremonies, for example. But those crowds are usually much smaller, and there’s typically more time between shows. Here, fans will arrive and leave almost simultaneously.

“This is extremely rare,” McElhinney said.

Arena officials knew that from the moment they booked the show and immediately began working with Fresno and campus police, as well as the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans, to come up with a plan to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible through the night. McElhinney says he will monitor the situation on site and through the traffic app Waze, and that the arena will post updates on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Ticket holders have already received a basic traffic alert, but McElhinney suggests checking for updates before leaving the show. He also suggests ride sharing or carpooling, if possible.

“If you have friends you know are going, make plans to come together,” he says.

And because some will need the reminder: Those not attending the concerts or football game should avoid the area altogether if possible.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee