Looking Back: WAC Garage

A question of parking

By Darrick Meneken

It’s hard to believe now, but the WAC Clubhouse once housed the Club’s primary parking spots. Walk in the front doors, proceed into the Noble Room, and look down. You can’t see them, but about two-dozen parking spaces are right below you.

“That was prime parking back then,” says longtime WAC Engineer Bill Rawe, who started at the Club in 1957.

You can still see some of the yellow parking stripes on the poured cement floor of “G Level,” now used for storage.

The in-Clubhouse parking spots came about with the 1954–1955 south addition. They were accessed by a ramp in the south wall. The opening for that ramp, now padlocked shut, still exists and connects with the Hilton garage.

During the Club’s first 25 years, parking was rarely an issue. Street parking was plentiful, and many members walked to the Club from nearby homes or offices. By the mid-1950s, however, automobile use was skyrocketing, downtown development was surging, and parking was at a premium.

“The benefits of the modern WAC Garage can’t be overstated,” President & CEO Chuck Nelson says. “Not only is it extremely convenient, but members also get great rates.”

The Park & Save program (which gives members a $100 parking card for $80) and flat rates during popular workout and dining times keep members parking in the Club garage. “Our members tell us daily that they park here because they have the prepaid Park & Save card,” Parking Facility Manager Ed Hehman says.

During the 2013–2014 fiscal year, a record 222,052 cars parked in the WAC Garage. That’s an average of 608 cars per day, or almost two cars per available spot. “Member usage continues to account for 80 percent of our total parking,” Ed says.

The current WAC Garage came about based on the strength of a handshake.

Here’s the story:

In 1978, former WAC President Dr. Randolph Pillow had a patient named Nick Carras, a Seattle businessman and owner of the Windsor Garage, located half a block north of the Clubhouse on Sixth Avenue. When Carras told Pillow he would accept $2.2 million ($7.9 million in today’s dollars) to purchase the garage, he and Pillow shook hands on a deal that secured the Club’s parking future. But there was a catch—the WAC had just 30 days to close the sale. During that time, Carras declined a competing offer of $2.7 million. Thanks to a sizeable loan, the Club closed on the purchase for the originally agreed amount.

A decade later, the WAC entered into a deal with the developers of U.S. Bank Centre. In exchange for a new 314-spot, eight-story underground garage, the WAC allowed the demolition of the old Windsor Garage and new tower construction.

The current WAC Garage opened in January 1989, and WAC members have been enjoying convenient and discounted parking ever since.

As published in the June/July 2015 issue of WAC Magazine.

—Posted December 15, 2017

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