Dayton Air Show shifts to pre-paid parking, easier access to lots

Parking changes and new entry lanes seen to be key to easing traffic issues

Leaders of the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show are hoping new parking access lanes and a move to pre-paid parking will ease the traffic snarls that bedeviled last July’s well-attended show.

Those attending the show are asked to purchase parking vouchers when they buy tickets for the show, eliminating the need to conduct a lengthy parking lot transaction with each entering vehicle, Kevin Franklin, the show’s executive director, said at a press conference Monday.

The idea is to have drivers display a parking voucher to be scanned as they enter lots. Motorists who do not have a voucher will be directed to a separate lane and parking area.

“We’re encouraging everyone to get their parking (vouchers) in advance,” Franklin said.

Another key change: July’s upcoming show will be cashless. Vendors and concessions will do business as normal, but ticket sales will be cashless.

And Scott Buchanan, chairman of the U.S. Air and Trade Show, which produces the annual two-day event, said new lanes will be paved to allow a new entrance into the show’s main, general admission parking lot from Northwoods Boulevard.

“There are three lanes we’re getting ready to pave,” Buchanan said. “We’ll be able to get a ton of cars off this road.”

For example, traffic on northbound Interstate 75 from Dayton would take a left from exit 64 on to Northwoods to reach the show’s parking area, an unpaved field east of North Dixie Drive and north of Northwoods. (Similarly, southbound traffic at that exit turns right on Northwoods.)

“You’re going to take a right sooner (into the parking area) rather than going all the way up to the National Road (North Dixie),” Buchanan said. “So we’ll have people coming up the National Road turning in, and then we’ll also have another lane that gets hundreds of cars off the road immediately.”

Strong attendance of last July’s two-day show likely contributed to lengthy traffic snarls on I-75. About 80,000 people attended the show in 2022, perhaps the event’s strongest attendance in 15 years.

The 2022 show was Dayton’s first post-pandemic air show not hampered by poor weather, and the turnout was strong. But Buchanan said air shows across the nation experienced the same challenges as crowds shook off pandemic restrictions

“It’s going to be a lot easier,” Buchanan said Monday. “You’re going to have two access points to that lot instead of one.”

The Air Force Thunderbirds are returning to headline the July 22 and 23 show this summer.

All tickets and parking vouchers are available now at Franklin said ticket sales so far have been brisk. Military discounts will be available next month.

As always, Franklin’s advice to show visitors Monday was to get to the show early, if possible. Show gates open at 9 a.m. each day. Flying acts start around 11:40 a.m., depending on weather and conditions.

Monday’s piece of advice echoed a warning the show gave visitors last year.

“Traffic will likely be heavier than some recent shows,” the show’s Twitter account warned visitors on social media mid-day during the two-day show’s first day last year, July 30. “Traffic is currently moving, but there is heavy turnout. Please give yourself time and expect slow moving traffic as you get to the lot.”

After last year’s show, Buchanan and Franklin acknowledged that parking and traffic were a challenge in Vandalia and around the show, with a number of people roughly equivalent to six sold-out University of Dayton arenas being funneled into the area around Dayton International Airport over two days.

Buchanan last year said the show was working with the city of Vandalia to create new parking areas on city-owned land at some point.

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