The National Football League Super Bowl will be played on February 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. The stadium is new, the weather should be beautiful, and the stadium’s open design might mitigate some COVID fears.
Although many football and music fans already travel to SoFi from great distances, the big game could kickoff LA’s comeback as a major travel destination. Despite concerns about COVID that extend to NFL teams as well as fans, the Super Bowl may bring 150,000 out-of-towners and $477 million to Los Angeles. Preserving the health of residents and visitors during COVID is clearly an issue, as is the readiness of local hotels and other tourist infrastructure, battered by the pandemic. Then there are the notorious parking and traffic problems at SoFi Stadium.
Super Bowl Sunday is a holiday for high rollers, drawing flocks of private jets and their owners. The 2020 battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers in Miami, just before COVID-19 hit, drew 1,946 private jet fly-ins.
This year’s Super Bowl at SoFi can capture a similarly upscale crowd. This week the least expensive Super Bowl tickets on SeatGeek were Upper Level Endzone seats at $6,957 each, including $1,672 in fees. That’s before food, drink, transportation or companion events like the Maxim Super Bowl party, with tickets at $2382 each.
Los Angeles restaurants, shops, and luxury hotels, like the Fairmont Century Plaza, are hoping for a windfall, Omicron permitting. SoFi has a capacity of 70,000 which can expand to 100,240 for special events like the Super Bowl or 2028 Olympics.
Since local COVID regulator allowed SoFi to open at full capacity in summer 2021, it has been a commercial success, hosting four sold-out nights of the K-pop boy band BTS, the Rolling Stones and Los Angeles Rams and Chargers NFL games.
Yet for attendees and residents alike, the enormous stadium has created a host of traffic and parking problems. As Inglewood resident Adán Gonzalez, 22, put it, “The entire traffic situation cannot be emphasized enough, it is horrendous.”
The size of the crowds, efforts to protect the surrounding neighborhood with permit parking (which doesn’t stop cars from clogging the streets) and the “limited traditional onsite parking at SoFi makes improving transportation logistics imperative.
SoFi Stadium was completed in 2020, paid for privately by Rams owners Stan Kroenke. Originally pegged at $2 billion, it cost $5 billion, making it the most expensive stadium ever built in the United States.
According to “SoFi Stadium By the Numbers,” SoFi is 3.1 million square feet in size, on a 298-acre lot (three times larger than Disneyland), and is set 100 feet below grade to accommodate the flight path of nearby Los Angeles International Airport.
One number not mentioned: the number of parking spaces. A short answer appears to be “not enough.” Although many websites say there are 17 parking lots at SoFi, the actual number of on-site parking spots appears to be classified, despite repeated requests to SoFi for a number. The price of on-site parking starts at $60 and goes up depending on location and the size of your vehicle, say if you want to tailgate.
Parking problems were originally reported in August, when the first events occurred after the lifting of COVID capacity and social distancing rules. Massive game day traffic jams and blockages of residential neighborhoods appeared to be an Achilles heel of the beautiful new stadium.
Nonetheless, I wanted to take my family to events at SoFi this fall. Despite COVID (proof of vaccination or negative test required), we attended three: the Rams-Buccaneers game in September, a Rolling Stones concert in October, and a pivotal Chargers-Chiefs game in December.
Unfortunately, our experiences make it appear that the traffic situation may actually have grown worse. We tried three separate approaches on getting to the stadium. Each was extremely aggravating, and the last completely spoiled a father-son NFL experience.
For the Rams game, I drove from the San Fernando Valley to meet my older son in Venice, CA. We took an Uber from Venice to Inglewood, a 10-mile $71 ride. Because of traffic congestion, the driver let us out on a jammed residential street. We walked the last mile to the stadium. After the game, we tried to get an Uber but could not, as drivers were avoiding the area. Instead, we took two buses, which took an hour and half to break out of stadium gridlock and get us back to Venice.
Six of us went to see the Rolling Stones. We had a $60 on-site spot in the Brown lot and another about a mile away. It was extremely stressful getting through the intense, poorly managed traffic on-site, but we successfully parked a short walk from the stadium. Yet after the show ended, we waited more than an hour to get out of the parking lot. My son and his girlfriend walked to their $60 spot a mile away and waited even longer.
Things did not improve three months later. In fact, our December experience was, hands-down, the worst. My younger son and I parked in a lot near LAX and took the SoFi shuttle, trying to avoid the above problems. It took more than half an hour to get from the ‘nearby’ parking facility to the stadium in the rain, so we missed the first quarter.
The 5:20PM game went to overtime and the Chargers suffered a traumatic defeat. On our way out none of the SoFi workers could tell us where the buses were.
We ended up waiting in a confused group of hundreds of angry, unmasked people in the rain, without social distancing. The transportation manager said something about not being able to get buses due to the overtime game. Yet the game ended before 8:50PM and we did not get on a bus to the remote lot until after 10:30PM. My son has not yet received a promised refund of his $52 parking.
Certainly, other stadiums have been built with limited parking. In New York, fans take the subway to Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden. LA Laker and Clipper fans can take a subway to within blocks of Staples Center (now Crypto.com). But there is no direct rail connection to SoFi in Inglewood.
Another new venue, the Las Vegas Raiders 65,000 seat Allegiant Stadium, has just 2,200 on-site parking spaces. Allegiant had significant traffic, accessibility and parking problems when it opened at full capacity in August, compounded by Nevada’s 100+ degree heat. Still, Allegiant, set to host the Super Bowl in 2024, is only about a mile walk from the Strip, is accessible by the popular Deuce bus, has numerous rideshare and taxi drop offs and has 35,000 parking spaces within a mile.
As for SoFi, if it does not fix its traffic problems by the Super Bowl, hopefully the kinks will be ironed out by the 2028 Olympics.