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Funny it's called 'Park' City, when there's so little parking

Space to stow all those SUVs proves rare, but an entrepreneurial spirit helps to find room for the festival influx.

January 27, 2006|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

PARK CITY, Utah — Sundance Film Festival, meet Nate and Alix Kintner, ages 10 and 6. They know what an endlessly frustrating chore it is to park during the festival's 10-day run, when this snow-covered burg becomes more choked with cars than the 405 at rush hour. And Nate and Alix are here to help.

If you're planning to attend a movie screening at the Racquet Club Theater, look for their pink cardboard sign posted across the street. Written in Alix's childish scrawl, it reads, "Parking $15, 1/2 of $ to charity."

The cliche about Park City during Sundance is that you can do almost anything here but park. The Sundance Institute has been charging $300 for a 10-day space behind the Egyptian Theater. And rumors about "secret" spaces abound. The transportation situation is so grim that even senior agents from Creative Artists Agency are forced to board a crowded shuttle bus.

But what's been bad for the legion of Sundance's SUV drivers has turned into a boon for some enterprising Park City entrepreneurs.

"It started as a lark," said Alix and Nate's mom, Eileen Kintner, a mortgage lender who operates the makeshift parking lot in her driveway.

"We put out a sign last year for $5 and the driveway filled up so fast, I said, 'Rip that down and charge more!' "

Kintner said her family took in $1,000 last year -- $500 of which went to local charities, the National Ability Center and Peace House.

The Racquet Club, despite being the remotest venue during Sundance, has been the site of some of its most crowded screenings, for films such as "Half Nelson" and "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints." The theater's handful of spaces go in seconds. On nearby streets, parking is forbidden -- cars are routinely towed, and it's a $280 fine.

The result: a parade of shivering, BlackBerry-toting hikers trudging through the snow from distant parking spaces or queuing up in shuttle bus lines that can be hundreds -- yes, hundreds -- of people deep.

Maybe things will be better next year. Concrete is being poured for a 300-space parking lot just behind Sundance's central artery, Main Street.

For now, Austin Hall sits near the bottom of Main in a folding chair, holding a sign that reads, "Parking 20$." With room for six cars at the house belonging to his boss, he said the best day has brought in $160.

"There are so many people in town right now. It's crazy," Hall, 15, said. "To park, they have to leave their cars outside Park City."

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