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Sundance Film Festival crowds spark high school parking questions

Oliver Diaz Moore
Park City High School parking lot during Sundance Film Festival 2023

It’s the first in-person Sundance Film Festival in two years and for some locals it’s bringing up some long-forgotten pain points like parking.

For the last decade, Park City High School students have had to sign waivers when they purchase parking permits. The rules and conditions of permits include a warning about Sundance, namely that parking passes do not insure parking spots during the 10 days of the film festival.

That’s because the festival has a contract to use some of the parking lot for people attending movies.

But after two years of virtual festivals, a new crop of students is driving and experiencing the parking crunch for the first time.

Since the 2023 festival began, the Park City Police Department and the Park City School District have received complaints about parking and student safety. Some parents are concerned about students parking illegally in an effort to get to school on time.

Police Lieutenant Jay Randall said he’s not aware of any tickets issued for illegally parking in the nearby neighborhoods.

School district spokesperson Heidi Matthews said the district has tried to alleviate parking woes by offering additional overflow parking in the church lot behind the school, but that it hasn’t been filling up.

During the festival, Matthews said the high school lets out ten minutes early in an effort to accommodate increased traffic. The district is encouraging families to make adjustments in their schedules, to leave a little earlier for school, park in the church parking lot, or carpool.

“Sundance is so much fun, but you know, it comes with some hassles and I think that we just all have to kind of pull together and do what we need to do during this time so that we can continue to have such a, you know, great opportunity in our, in our community,” said Matthews.

In addition to concerns about people taking parking spaces, some parents have made public their worries about film patrons roaming the campus.

Both the district and the Park City Institute, which oversees Sundance’s contract with the Eccles, say they take measures to keep students safe. The district says there are parking attendants in the lot including uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

Park City Institute Executive Ari Ioannides told KPCW access to the school building is restricted by keycard and Sundance hires security to keep patrons safe inside the Eccles theater.