Ann Arbor Startup Aims to be ‘Stub Hub of Event Parking’

10/11/11Follow @XconomyDET

The success of the Detroit Lions and Tigers has dominated the headlines recently, but perhaps you’ve heard there’s another big game coming up this weekend: The intense in-state rivalry between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan on Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MI. I’m not planning on going to the game, but I am planning to make the trip 80 miles up the road to tailgate.

For me, Saturdays during autumn don’t feel right unless they come with an MSU sweatshirt and my vintage “M Go Blow” beer cozy (full disclosure: I bleed green and white). Through the years, I’ve attended tailgates of all size and grandeur, from Bob Griese’s tailgate party for alums of the University of Michigan’s athletic program (featuring a DJ that nobody danced to), to a tailgate my friend Doug and I once had that involved a six pack of beer and a bag of pretzel rods on his back bumper. On various campuses across the state, I’ve played beer pong, taken shots out of an ice luge, and tried to toss a beanbag into a wooden box with holes in it. I’ve also attended tailgates with linen table cloths and guest chefs imported from Toronto. In other words, I, like many Michiganders, take my tailgate parties pretty darn seriously.

But as any veteran tailgater will tell you, by far the biggest annoyance on game days is parking. People will get up at ridiculous hours of the early morning just to secure a spot. In East Lansing, at least, it’s not uncommon for football fans to park a mile away from the stadium and walk. But if the Ann Arbor, MI-based startup company Park n Party has its way, event-parking headaches will soon be a thing of the past.

Founded by Taylor Bond and Jason Kapica, Park n Party charges tailgaters a fee to reserve parking spots for tailgating well in advance. Lot owners also pay the company a fee to get their spots listed on the site. In the future, Bond imagines the site as a kind of tailgating clearinghouse, where customers will be able to select not only their parking spaces, but their caterer, too.

“We would like to become the Stub Hub of event parking,” Bond says, pointing out that during the most recent Super Bowl, parking spots were going for up to $900 each. “We’re very excited about how the public has responded, as well as the growth potential.”

Though Park n Party currently serves only the Ann Arbor market—which Bond calls the biggest tailgating market in the country—the company plans to expand its services to East Lansing and cities in Illinois and Wisconsin.

“We’ve had people from as far away as England contact us to reserve parking,” Bond says. “It’s been a big hit so far.”

Bond says the idea for Park n Party came to him last year at, of course, a tailgate party.

“I noticed that the first thing people would do when they got out of the car is call their friends to let them know how many more spaces were left in the lot,” says Bond, who holds down a day job with the resale company Children’s Orchard. “It dawned on me that there was probably an Internet-based solution for this. We did some research and we didn’t see any similar services out there, so we started building the back end of the site.”

Park n Party specifically allows friends to reserve blocs of spaces together, and even allows customers to pay a premium for spots that include use of an indoor bathroom. Bond says Park n Party’s ability to list amenities such as bathrooms has made it popular with lot owners.

“We’ve created a marketplace,” he says.

As for why tailgate parties only seem to be growing in popularity, Bond waxes a bit nostalgic.

“Tailgating is clean, cheap fun,” he says. “In a world where everybody has their faces in their phones, tailgating is one of the last pure forms of entertainment that involves good, old-fashioned human interaction, sometimes with strangers. It’s great to see people talking to one another. Our goal is to take the frustration of not being able to find a place to park out of the experience.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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