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Jessica Segovia

Jessica Segovia is a senior at UNLV in the School of Journalism & Media Studies. She is a traveler, food addict and an aspiring journalist. She one day hopes to have the opportunity to work for a travel/food publication as a writer, blogger or food stylist.

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MGM's pay-to-park plan irks Vegas locals, tourists and valet drivers

19 Feb 2016

By Jessica Segovia
The glory days of free parking and lucrative valet jobs on the Las Vegas Strip came to a screeching halt earlier this year after MGM Resorts International announced plans to charge visitors for parking and outsource its valet services.

The shift away from free parking in Las Vegas came as a surprise to many locals, who are now left feeling stripped of their perks.

"It's ridiculous to me, being born and raised here. I guess you could say we were spoiled, but obviously not anymore," said Veronica Travez, a Las Vegas local employed at an off-Strip casino.

Las Vegas visitors may soon be left with a sour taste in their mouth after paying the bill for parking at MGM's Strip properties.

Las Vegas visitors may soon be left with a sour taste in their mouth after paying the bill for parking at MGM's Strip properties. (photo by Patrick O'Brien via CC 3.0)

Parking fees are set to start at $10 for overnight self-parking, with a higher charge for valet parking at MGM's Strip properties, including Aria Resort & Casino, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Luxor Hotel and Casino, Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort & Casino, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, The Mirage and Vdara.

The parking fees will coincide with the grand opening of the T-Mobile Arena located next to the Monte Carlo, according to a statement from MGM CEO James Murren. The new parking structure is designed to serve MGM Resorts' new entertainment venues, which include The Park, the Theater at the Monte Carlo and the T-Mobile Arena, set to debut in April.

But the proposed plan was met with opposition by locals and tourists alike, who took to social media to express their discontent.

"If I have to pay for parking, I would go somewhere else," said Las Vegas resident Tommy Munoz. "I'm not going to pay for that. I think they should raise the cost for something else rather than charge for parking. That's terrible."

MGM has 37,000 parking spaces and spends $30 million annually to maintain the facilities. The increase in revenue would offset the cost of planned improvements, including the construction of 3,000 new parking spaces near Excalibur, estimated to cost $54 million dollars. Other improvements will include redesigned parking facility layouts, improved accessibility and mobile technology that will allow visitors to check space availability and upgrade lighting. Guests using the self-park facilities will be able to check whether spaces are available on their smartphone.

But some visitors are concerned the extra fees will put a dent in their spending.

"I'm against [paying for parking] because that's money I could spend on other activities," said Johnette Garcia, an Alaskan tourist. "The more I spend, the more I'm supporting the Vegas economy."

Parking will remain free of charge at the Circus Circus Hotel Casino, the Shops at Crystals and Mandalay Bay Place. Locals will also be provided with a grace period and a discounted fee, according to the press release. Parking in MGM properties outside of Las Vegas will continue to remain free.

While MGM's Strip properties are the first to charge for parking, they likely won't be the last. No other Las Vegas properties have announced they will follow in MGM Resorts' footsteps yet, but a pay-to-park policy may become standard in Las Vegas in the same way that resort fees are now ubiquitous after initially being met with resistance.

In addition to charging for parking, MGM will outsource valet parking services to SP Plus Corp., a Chicago-based company.

"In seeking to provide the ideal solution for our customers, our employees and our company, we determined the best-practice operation of our enhanced parking facilities required an expert hand," said MGM International Chief Operating Officer Corey Sanders.

All non-union valet employees will become SP Plus Corp. employees. SP Plus Corp. will match compensation, paid time off, health benefits and other benefits currently offered by MGM. SP Plus Corp. will absorb about 400 MGM employees and plans to honor employee seniority levels for years working for MGM.

Valet employees working under the Teamster Local 986 Union at Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus will not initially transfer to SP Plus Corp. Pending discussions with union representatives will determine if operational changes will be made at those properties.

Valet workers worry the new valet charges will deter guests from using the services, resulting in a loss of income for valet personnel.

"Valet use to be a big-money job, but now who knows what will happen," Travez says.

According to Jared Beck, a valet attendant at the Cromwell Las Vegas, changes can already be seen: The Cromwell changed its valet-only parking model to also offer free self-parking, perhaps in response to MGM's paid parking plan. As a result, Beck and other valet drivers have seen a reduction in their hours.

While locals wonder if this move will hurt tourism and employment opportunities in Las Vegas, free parking may ultimately be a thing of the past.

"While the expectation of most of us that live here is that parking is free, this is not necessarily an expectation of many who visit [Las Vegas]," said Dr. Christopher Stream, director of the School of Environmental and Public Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "No one goes to Disneyland without paying for parking."
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