The NHL Winter Classic was the busiest day ever for parknparty.com.
by Josie Schneider
From the February, 2014 issue
The local website handled the rental of 3,000 parking and tailgating spots for the New Year's Day hockey game at Michigan Stadium. That easily beat its previous record: 2,000 spaces for the last fall's Michigan-Notre Dame football game.
Serial entrepreneurs Taylor Bond and Jason Kapica own an office building at the intersection of Main Street and Ann Arbor-Saline Road. Four years ago, Bond observed a ritual: after parking for football games, people would call friends to decide where to meet or tailgate. With so many others trying to do the same thing, calls were often dropped.
"Some business idea has to come out of this," Bond thought to himself at the time.
Bond and Kapica designed the first version of the website themselves (one of many talents they've developed while owning five businesses). Parkers can choose a major event, enter their license plate numbers, pick the lot they want, and pay in advance. Though most spaces are in private lots, for the Winter Classic, ParknParty also rented 500 spaces in the city's Library Lane structure. The company's revenue comes from a listing fee paid by lot owners, a $6-$10 convenience fee paid by parkers, and event planning.
"It just made the mystery go away," says Brett Moyer from Milan, who rented two spots at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club across from the Big House before the Michigan-Iowa football game last year. "I thought you had to be a member of some club or an alum to park at the course."
"Customers tell you where you need to be," says Bond, his decibel level rising and his words quickening in excitement. "We became the central repository for all things parking in Ann Arbor," Bond says. Most of the people who called wanted to know about tailgating--where it could happen, where to rent a tent and buy food--and the "party" half of ParknParty.com took shape. The site now offers event planning, food, and entertainment--for one customer, they provided a
tent with power, cable TV, and Zingerman's catering.
In the beginning, parking lot owners weren't clamoring to sign up. They figured they would fill their spaces anyway--and in any case weren't sure how much to charge. They'd say, "'Bob's lot down the road sets the price,'" Kapica recalls. "'The traffic comes from that way, and Bob's is the first lot customers see.'"
So Bond and Kapica set out to educate lot owners on how to maximize their earnings. Were their spaces easy-out, or next to a picnic table, or with access to a bathroom or electricity, or large enough for an RV? And they pointed out the convenience of selling spaces ahead of time, eliminating the need for the lot owners to stand in the road waving customers in.
Perry Sankovich started listing the nine parking spaces in his yard on Belmar, a block west of Main, two years ago. "It's simply easier because I can sell the spots up front and don't have to deal with cash," he says. And at the company's suggestion, he now has two-tier pricing: five higher-price spots on his lawn are easy access, and the customers keep their keys. Four lower-priced spots are tucked away.
Last year, ParknParty expanded to South Bend and is gearing up to add Madison. And Bond says that the National Hockey League was so pleased with ParknParty's work for this year's Winter Classic that they're talking about expanding to Washington, D.C., for next January's game.
[Originally published in February, 2014.]