A 5 p.m. tip-off at Colonial Life Arena, combined with weekend rush-hour traffic and four other nearby events, is likely to create some traffic stalls Friday in downtown Columbia in the hours before USC’s NCAA playoff game.
The No. 1 seeded USC women’s basketball team is hosting a regional for the first time since 2002, playing Savannah State in the first round. And while pre-game congestion is nothing new – the team has led the nation in attendance this year – fans could find some parking spots normally available up for grabs, as several other events are planned in the afternoon and evening within a three-block area.
But fear not. There will be parking and shuttle options, but fans and guests at other area events just need to plan ahead and allow a little more time to get there. Here are a few other things to know about navigating – or avoiding – Friday’s traffic.
Look for the signs: There will be electric signs in various downtown locations directing spectators to available public parking, and Columbia police will direct traffic around the arena area.
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Free parking shuttles: Buses will begin free transportation for fans from satellite parking areas to the Colonial Life Arena and back, starting two hours prior to game time. The shuttles will run until one hour after the second NCAA playoff game that night. The satellite parking areas are at the old Capital City stadium, 301 Assembly St., and USC’s Pendleton Street and Senate Street garages (access both in the 1000 block of Pickens Street). Parking is $5. Commuters should allow at least 20 minutes for shuttle transports to and from the arena.
Public garages: Several public parking garages are located near the Vista and Main Street districts and within walking distance of the arena. The city garage at Park and Pendleton streets and the university’s Discovery garage at Park and College streets will have limited parking for $5. The city garage at Lincoln and Washington streets will have parking available for $1 an hour.
Parking lots: There will be limited $5 parking in the Colonial Life Arena lots (A and B), where USC students also will park during Friday afternoon classes.
The roads less traveled: Those not traveling to the game or some other downtown destination Friday may want to to avoid the Assembly, Blossom, Gervais and Hunger street areas altogether from late afternoon throughout the evening.
Want to avoid traffic leaving USC’s game? Stick around for the second NCAA women’s basketball match-up, starting around 7:30 p.m. between Syracuse and Nebraska.