Together, they form the perfect union, the place we most want to be and the place so many of us will be at again after a rugged winter of repair, reflection and renewal.
But when you think about it, those two wonderful words easily could be reversed and still reflect our typical experience with Major League Baseball. Most of us park, and then watch some ball.
Parking in area lots is a key piece of the overall fan experience, and one that usually flies under the radar. So now that Opening Day has arrived, let's include a new player named Parking Panda in the introductions. It is about to emerge in conjunction with MLB.com as a game-changer.
"Parking is a huge part of the gameday experience, and anybody who has driven to a game knows it can make for a terrible experience," said Nick Miller, an Orioles fan who co-founded Parking Panda as a way to use technology to make parking more efficient. "Many fans leave the house without a good idea of where they're going to park or what they're going to pay ahead of time. The result is that we end up stuck in traffic and circling the block passing 'lot full' signs.
"When we finally see the first sign for parking, we pull in to an unfamiliar lot, pay an arm and a leg in cash to the attendant, cross our fingers and hope that our car will still be in the same condition when we return from the game. At the end of the game, you brace for the inevitable line of cars you're going to have to wait in to get out of the lot. You even often see droves of fans leaving the stadium early -- games that they paid good money to see and enjoy -- just to avoid the rush to the parking lot.
"We at Parking Panda recognize that parking can be a huge problem, and we want to help fix this so fans can get back to enjoying the game."
Parking Panda is growing quickly across North America for widespread event parking, including baseball, and it is a win-win because it also help lot owners sell their inventory while alleviating headaches for fans. It solves many of these problems by allowing you to view and purchase all of your parking options ahead of time. You can view all of the locations on a map and decide what you want to pay and where you want to park, with real-time prices and inventory for each parking location.
Once you select a location, it's easy to purchase online or on the go. You are instantly emailed a confirmation that guarantees access to your selected location and serves as your payment. With Parking Panda, you know where you are going and what you are paying ahead of time. It might have even helped comedian Steven Wright, who once said: "I used to work in a fire-hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place."
"We're very excited to be working with MLB.com and various teams this season to redefine the gameday parking experience," Miller said. "We have a dedicated in-house customer service team, so we encourage fans to contact us with any feedback so that we can continue to grow our service to make their gameday parking as hassle-free and easy as possible."
Miller grew up around Baltimore, and he remembers attending Orioles games from an early age, when his family would drive around looking for parking. The idea for the company was sparked in college when he and his roommates had an unused driveway; it got him thinking about unused spaces in lots and garages and how he could use the technology to make parking more efficient. As the idea evolved, Miller reflected on the games he attended as a kid and how technology could really revolutionize the parking industry by managing and optimizing yield for all of their parking inventory.
Miller started the company three years ago with Adam Zilberbaum, and its 20-person full-time crew is based in Baltimore, with a satellite office in New York. It has grown into one of the leading parking aggregation and reservation platforms in the nation, listing more than two million parking spaces in more than 75 cities. Parking Panda also partners with many large events, venues and professional sports teams across the country to allow their customers to purchase guaranteed parking in advance.
"Our ultimate vision is one centralized platform that eliminates all of the uncertainty and headaches caused by parking on gameday," Miller said. "In the near future, we envision that our platform will feature all of the parking options for a stadium so customers can see every parking option ahead of time. If you're a family with young children and don't want to walk too far, you can reserve a guaranteed spot close to the stadium. If you're a 20-something looking to save some money and avoid traffic, you can select a cheaper parking location a bit farther away.
"The best part for everybody, though, is that the prices and availability are all guaranteed, regardless of whether you park at the stadium or a third-party location. There is going to be a lot less traffic and congestion, because everyone knows where they're going ahead of time, and deeper integration on-site means eliminating the need for hang tags, cash transactions and anything else that slows down getting cars in and out of the location. And customers are also going to save a lot of money, because they can now compare all of the available prices ahead of time."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.