Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Parking, Football, and Sightseeing in New York

Last week I had the opportunity to take a business trip out east to the New Meadowlands football stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey; home of the New York Jets and New York Giants. This is the stadium's first year of operation, and has recently installed a parking management system from my company. Having worked on supporting this site's parking system, I was sent out with one of our developers and one of our testers to install some updates to the system and to see how well everything operated as nearly 80,000 fans showed up for a football game looking for a place to park.

We arrived on Sunday October 9th and got to work on the handheld computers in the attendant booths throughout the complex, and made some updates to the server as well. We were able to take care of most of the work Sunday, and complete the updates on Monday morning.

With the major work done, we had some preparation for the game and ensuing parking traffic. Double checking things, getting security credentials for the stadium, etc. After a busy morning we broke for lunch, and spent a little time touring the stadium in the daylight, checking out the view of the field from the front row at the 50-yard line.

Happy to say our parking system worked very well overall, which made our evening fairly easy. As thousands of tailgaters flowed in and fired up their grills, we drove around to the various parking entrances and checked on everyone as the evening progressed. I carried a two-way radio to keep in touch with the parking staff if something came up. At one point shortly before game time we ended up stranded out in a downpour, and got pretty soaked until we could make our way to shelter underneath a pedestrian footbridge for awhile. Aside from being wet I was having a great time!

With things running well, our remaining job for the evening was to monitor the system and send out reports every hour or two on how many transactions had gone through. Since this could be done with a laptop and internet access, we brought one with us and headed into the stadium hoping to see some of the game. As luck would have it, the game we went out there for was a MN Vikings game.

Once in the stadium, the rain really came down hard. They wouldn't let anyone into the seats until the rain and lightning let up, and the start of the game was delayed. Our security badges allowed us into the back areas of the stadium, so we could get out of the crowds of fans trying to stay dry. While roaming the halls we saw the entrances to the team locker rooms, and happened to come upon a tunnel down to the field. After chatting with security for awhile, he told us we were welcome to come down and watch the game once the rain delay was over. Until then we had expected we'd have to find some open seats in the upper decks. Sure enough, we came back later and walked right down by the field. It's surprising what wearing a badge and carrying a two-way radio can accomplish. We walked up the ramp to the handicapped seating area, pulled up some folding chairs, and took a seat front row in the end zone. If I were a real football fan I may have appreciated this more, but it was still an amazing experience to be watching a football game in the front row with 80,000 fans cheering around you.

The game was blast. We got rained on a few more times, but could at least duck into the tunnel if it got bad enough. We kept checking on the parking system and things continued to run well as the game started. It was a long day and long night, but overall a great success and a great time. We headed out just before the end of the game to beat the crowd, and turned in at the hotel around midnight, picking up some dinner in the hotel lobby.

Tuesday morning we slept in after a long day, and met with some coworkers to go over the details of the day before. With business & breakfast out of the way, we had a few hours until we had to get to the airport, so we took the rental car and made the most of our time... Manhattan or bust!

I've never been to New York before, so to spend two days just over the border and NOT go into the city would be a shame. We entered Manhattan through the Lincoln tunnel, and took a driving tour to see whatever we could see, including Times Square and the Empire State building.

We headed for Ground Zero and had about 20 minutes we could get out and walk before we'd need to head back. Of course, we had to stop for a hot dog from a New York street vendor, and it was good.

Ground Zero itself was under a lot of construction and was difficult to see from where we were, but there was a small opening in the wall by the subway entrance where I could get some good photos of the area. Pretty amazing how much of the space is still empty a full 9 years later.

After our brief tour of the city, we headed back to Newark airport and back to Minneapolis. All in all it was a great trip.