Parking concerns at the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa

Thursday, February 24th 2005, 10:21 am
By: News On 6

A parking dispute at the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa has a nearby business frustrated and some customers angry. The problem heated up on Tuesday night during a special event when the casino's parking lot was overflowing.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says the casino parking lot holds 2,500 vehicles and casino officials say because they anticipated a crowd because of their car giveaway, they opened a separate lot with a shuttle for employees. Freeing up extra parking places in their main parking lot. They hoped the event would be popular, they had no idea how many people would come.

Lori Sadler of Sapulpa lost a lot of money Tuesday night, but it wasn't inside the Cherokee Casino. Like several other customers that night, finding the lot full, Sadler took a gamble and parked across the street at the Super 8 Motel. "There were no signs when we pulled in, we couldn't see anything at all because the parking lot had probably 50 or 60 cars in it." Sadler's car, along with several others was towed.

Casino officials made an announcement, but by the time she made it to the lot, her car was already gone. She had no idea where. “Once we got there were others there who were furious their cars had gotten towed and we had to pay cash." $175 worth. Cash only is standard policy in the towing business.

Sadler admits she did park in a truck lot and that once the lot was empty you could see the no parking signs, but she says they were small, partially handwritten and poorly posted.

The night clerk at the Super 8 Motel says the parking problem is a frequent one. She says her business is mostly truckers and that night their big rigs were blocked in. Ladonna Springer: "People are coming in upset they can't get out of the parking lot; I mean we had to have our security guard go stand so we could pull out and the other shift come in."

Casino officials were concerned at news of the towing and say they want to keep both their customers and nearby businesses happy. Cherokee Casino CEO Dave Stewart: "We're just gonna have to do a better job of getting ready for all the people that are gonna be here, because we really have no idea beforehand what's gonna happen. We just weren't as prepared as we should've been."

Nearby restaurant owner Marshall Russell says he doesn't mind if patrons park and eat at his restaurant before going to the casino, it's when he sees his lot full and booths empty that it's frustrating. But he says for his business the casino is a good neighbor. "We have no problem with them as far as that goes. I mean, they can't help it if people park wherever they park."

Casino officials tell the News on 6, they are taking a closer look at the problem. So far, it's only come up on special event nights, which happen once every six weeks. Officials say they may build a parking garage or convert more of their property into asphalt. They say they're still learning what all this growth means to their operation.