Sundance Institute Reflects On The Film Festivals Impact On Traffic And Venues

Jun 5, 2019

Credit KPCW Radio

The annual Sundance Festival report not only looks at economic impact. It has also generated discussion in Park City about traffic in town during the Festival—and about the spaces used for venues.

As we’ve reported, Park City Council members have been hearing complaints from residents that drivers for Lyft (the Festival’s official ride-share service) as well as Uber, were driving through residential streets to avoid the town’s clogged main arteries.

City officials are talking about using so-called “geofencing app” technology to restrict the vehicles from certain areas.

In response, Sundance’s Managing Director Betsy Wallace said that Lyft has tried to educate their drivers to stay out of the neighborhoods.

“That again is going to go to Lyft and Lyft has to evaluate their technology capability,” Wallace said. “Our guarantee and our hope is to work with the city and figure out ways to make that first weekend less hectic and less crazy. It is always our goal every year. We try different things and sometimes it sticks and sometimes it was a good try and we will continue to work with the city.”

“Any concern though that that Lyft sponsorship could be at stake?” KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher asked.

“I hope not,” Wallace answered. “You know they've been very good and for us they really train their employees. Every year right before the festival all of their drivers come and get training and really try to make sure they understand the rules. That they can't go out into the outer avenues. Whether or not that--I'm sure people saw them, but we try very hard and I know Lyft tries very hard to educate their drivers.”

On a related issue, cab-company owner Sam Rubin recently complained that taxi operations are not being supported by the city or by Sundance.

However, Wallace takes issue with that.

“We ask people to not drive. That if they don't take the bus that they take—yes, our partner is Lyft—but take Lyft or taxis around the area. So, I know he may, and the taxi drivers may, sometimes feel that way but we’re supportive of everybody that is up here. Primarily Lyft and the taxi drivers.”

“So I mean is it that the local taxis can't handle the demand? Or is it that Lyft is a sponsor and you're going to use it?” KPCW Leslie Thatcher questioned.

“You probably would have to talk with Sam about that and get a sense whether or not they were fully capacitized. I can’t tell you that, he would absolutely be the person to tell you. I do think there's a lot of people up here and I'm not sure the taxi group as a standalone base could handle those crowds. That being said we support them and we're hoping that they are as capacitized as they can be.”

On the positive side, she said that some 33,000 people took the bus during Sundance this year. That’s about a 25 percent increase over the past two years.

Turning to some of Sundance’s venues—The old Sports Authority space in the Holiday Village Mall has become a theater called the Ray for the past two years. But we asked if it can have some use for the rest of the year.

“It is a theater primarily and for us to be able to use it we have to go back to the city every time and try to get a permit with them. They've been good about that but we're going to try hopefully in another couple years to see how we can make that year-round. It is expensive for us to convert our permit to a year-round theater. I'm not sure that Park City needs another year-round theater, but we use it for meetings. We use it to showcase private events. Others that want to use it can come in and show a movie, have an event there. So, it really is on the private side right now. It's a difficult space because it is 25,000 square feet and I think that's why when Sports Authority left it sat vacant for two years. It's really a difficult big space.”

that somebody will come in and really embrace it what is it really is a good space

She added they have hosted events at The Ray to help mitigate the expense of holding on to the space.

And concerning the old Blockbuster space next to Walgreen’s, which became the New Frontier for the 2019 festival, she said they’re looking for users for the six months of the year when it’s not needed for Sundance.

“We've been talking to several people, trying to get people in from really the March time frame to September. That's the time frame that it's really sitting empty and then we take it over again and start to build out for New Frontier. We've talked to eight or nine people and trying to get somebody that really wants to come in and use it. We have that space for another three years. It's a great space, I just showed it to somebody else on Friday so my fingers are crossed that somebody will come in and really embrace it for what it is. It really is a good space.”