Parking Guide for University of Akron


Meter-Made Man

Chances are, if you’ve held a quarter in the City of Akron, you’ve touched money that passed through the expert hands of Akron’s own, Pat Fiocca. Every kid who has put a quarter in a gumball machine, every mom who has dug through her purse for change, every man who has emptied change onto his dresser, everyone who has held a quarter, spent one, or received one as change, has probably held Pat’s hand (indirectly, of course, we say in case The Boss is reading). Since 1972, the parking meters in Akron, Ohio and separately on The University of Akron campus have been kept in working order by Pat, a truly special man.

When UAkronPark took over, we discussed positions with all the existing staff (off-the-clock, I must say for any of our beloved Union members who might be reading along with The Boss). When Pat’s turn came, he and I met, just as I had with the others, to discuss his position. He wasn’t happy about transitioning to SP+ from being a longtime University employee, but there was just no other way; staying on with the University just wasn’t an option. It never is. We’ve faced this before, as it’s fairly typical when a management company takes over, even one like ours, the biggest parking operator in the country.

Pat started in, resolved and disappointed, “I’m done. There’ll be nothing for me here. I’ve taken care of parking meters in Akron, Ohio since 1972, and I don’t wanna do nothin’ else. It’ll just be best for me to finish out my time with the University and just be done.” From the first moment, I felt like I didn’t want it to be true for him any more than he did. Pat tends to have that effect on people, at least me. Pat’s a cheerful man with kind eyes and a contagious energy that just untangles any seriousness in an atmosphere the moment he encounters it. You can’t help but laugh around him—except on this day. We weren’t laughing on this day.

I asked Pat to share more about his history, which I reviewed with him this morning, his last day with us. When Pat finished telling me about how he and the parking meters moved through this historic city, I decided two things: I wasn’t letting him leave before the last meter was removed, and someday, I would write an article about it so that our community could know his story.

After listening for a few minutes, it was clear that this man’s passion for parking meters was unmatched. But parking meters? Seriously? What’s to like? As a parking operations manager, I probably hate them more than you do. Selfishly, I knew that I needed him, but more than that, I was quickly realizing that I wanted to have him around. You see, Pat’s sweet. And funny. And bad. If you don’t have an uncle like Pat, you missed out on something my Uncle George provided for my sibs, my cousins, and me. It’s a cheerful glow, playful and wholesome but mischievous, really mischievous. My mind raced beyond reason with Pat, and I settled in on what I thought was such a good approach that I almost felt guilty, “Pat,” I said, “after all these years, after everything that this city has been through with parking and changing–and this new chapter–and after everything you’ve been through with these meters–putting them in, moving them, keeping them running, training other men to do the same and then watching them leave, making them into lamps for people–don’t you think it would be a crime if someone else ripped them out?

Pat stared at me pensively. So I doubled down, “Pat, wouldn’t it be wrong if some other chucklehead came in here and ripped these meters out and just threw them into the back of a truck without ever knowing what you went through to put them up and keep them up?” He took this seriously; I mean, the man loves parking meters.

Pat just said, “I don’t know,” mumbling more of what he had rehearsed for the conversation, and he made his way out, rather abruptly. Since I’ve known Pat, he hasn’t done anything since “rather abruptly”. Dating myself here, but Pat’s the local Columbo when it comes to leaving a room, always popping back in for one more line. Not this time, though.

An hour later, he called me, “I’ll take your meters out. You’re right. I need to see it through. I…” he paused, “I’ll take your meters out.” And that was it. Pat became an SP+ employee after a lengthy process of the office staff chasing him down to complete every step along the way.

Interview with Pat Fiocca: The Meter-Made Man’s Story

So our Director of Operations, Brandon, and I sat down with Pat on this, his last day to hear it all again so that we could share these few details about our friend, Pat Fiocca. Here’s how it went down:

Q: Pat, give me the rundown of the history again, how you got into the meters, how you came to work for the University… ya know, the backstory.
A: Oh. Ok. In 1972, I worked for the city of Akron. There was a foreman and four meter collectors. I did that. I collected from the old meters [referencing the piles of old stock that used to sit in the corner of his shop in the basement of the North Campus Parking Deck]
In 1975, they went to Park-O-Meters, so we had to switch them all. Our foreman had to go to Cincinnati for school. When he came back, we put ‘em all in. But then, he retired. After that, they made me the foreman, so they sent me to Cincinnati for a week. I had four people under me, but I thought I can teach these guys, so I did. Taught them how to tear them down, put them back together, and everything.

Q: And how did you end up with the University?
A: In 1995, Chuck Ferrell calls me up at the city, and, what [The University of] Akron was doing, they could contract to have someone sent up from Cincinnati once a month. What he would do: he would take them out and set them on a bench. He says, “I got 10 meters here that need to be worked on.” I met him over at McDonald’s. I didn’t even know who he was. Took them back to my shop, 10 of them, tore them down, fixed ‘em, met him back over at McDonald’s. He said, “I don’t even know how I am going to pay you.” I just told him, “Chuck, chalk it up to the City of Akron and the University working together.” So he said to me, “do you wanna work here?” Told him ‘parttime,’ so that’s what I did: came here to work parttime, four hours a night, came over in the evenings and worked on them, just to maintain, four hours a night.”

Then, I retired from the city of Akron in 2000. So I thought I would keep this little shop and work for four hours a day. That was in 2000 after I retired. 28 years. Wanted to do 30, but that’s alright.

The city switched over to digital meters. When they did that, they had all the old meters on sale: and ya know what? We got ‘em. 700 meters for $1 apiece. Never had to buy another part again; I call it “cannibalizing them” [taking parts from old meters to keep working ones in the field].

[NOTE: we resold 100 parking meters for $3,400 last week. So watch out for this guy: master negotiator.]

Those were the ones I worked on at the city. It was funny: they had my little number in there. My little number was on there when I opened them up because I worked on them when I was at the city.

Q: That’s great. That relationship continued as they moved locations. You literally left your mark on them. Pat tell me about reffing. Just a little history of how you became a football ref.
A: OOOOOHHHHHH!!! I started that in 1972 too. Just got out of the service. I said, ‘I wanna try to be a football, basketball, and baseball ref, do it all.’ but then, basketball, I didn’t like basketball at all, and I said, “no summertime. Summertime, I wanna be with the kids.”

I was a high school ref for 40 years. I was on a crew with five guys. We was doin’ semi-pro around here, and they got the same crew. We went to semi-pro. Erie Hawks, every Sunday morning.

I asked him for clarification because I couldn’t believe they played on Sunday mornings. That would never happen now, as the NFL would not tolerate any competition whatsoever.

Yeah, oh yeah, they played every Sunday morning. Canada, Buffalo, the Mid-Continent Football League, MCFL. 10 years, while doing high school. Retired from high school in 2012 because I wanted to watch my son play. I didn’t want to be workin’ a game; I wanted to be at the game, watching my son play. 40 years was enough.

While I was doing high school, I was at a meeting. Guy came up to me and said, “wanna hold a chain for Akron U?” That was in 1994. So I said what any guy would say, “HELL YEAH!” Great guy. Sadly, just passed away last year.

Q: Pat, if you’re comfortable, would you like to talk a little about your military service?
A: “Reporting, Sir, US51828717!” Never forgot that!

Q: Brandon (who had been keeping the riffing going while I hacked away at my keyboard) chimed in here: Is that what you had to say?
A: Oh yeah! That’s how you got paid. Never forgot that!

So I graduated from Springfield High School in 1966. In about June… July… August, I got a paper: DRAFTED. I’ll never forget. There was 20 of us in the area. Put us on a bus–Greyhound down here–Springfield Band sent us off. It was really nice.

Went up there [to Cleveland]. Got drafted, never forget. Getting our physicals:

“Raise your right hand. Take a step forward…

(and if you don’t, it’s ‘you go to jail and get a $10,000 fine).”

So I said, “I might be nutsy, but I ain’t stupid.” I went. Didn’t want to go. Went to boot camp. “Guerilla Warfare,” that’s what they call it. Went to AIT, whatever training, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, truck driving school, deuce-and-a-half, rough terrain, through the woods; that’s like what they have there, ya know. Went through all that and became a truck driver. Then, we get our orders: I went to Germany!

They sent me to Germany!

Q: Where in Germany?
A: Stuttgart, Germany. Kelly Barracks. Went there, and it was a transportation outfit–deuce-and-a-halfs, jeeps, everything–I drove. They had sedans too, and I drove a sedan and drove officers around. After that for about 10 months, I did that, they had a dispatcher that was leaving. They said, “Pat, you want to be a dispatcher?” I said, “I might be nutsy, but I ain’t stupid,” so I took it and sent everyone out. I lucked out: I’m a Vietnam Era Veteran but never went to Vietnam.

Pat became somber for a brief moment and then continued.

I never went to Vietnam, or I might not be here.

Perfectly characteristically of Pat, he snapped back into a jokester.


One thing you need to know to understand Pat is “The Boss”. Pat constantly refers to “The Boss”. It’s not me. It’s not Jared, our longtime parking director, now executive director. It’s not Brandon, our Director of Operations and, ya know, Pat’s boss. “The Boss” is, in fact, Pat’s wife.

He always has to ask “The Boss,” and he playfully throws body shots when he says it. “Have to take The Boss to an appointment [shot, shot, shot]” And, “oh, I don’t know if I can do that; need to ask The Boss [shot, shot, shot, and laughs]. You know who The Boss is?

Yes, Pat, “it’s the wife!”

Q [Brandon]:So when did you meet The Boss?
A: I met Connie after I got divorced. Best thing that ever happened to me. Best thing, THE best thing. She raised my three daughters; that’s how great she is. My girls say, “that lady may have been my mother, but Connie was my mom.” Pat is put together, but it was plain to see how much this man loves his wife. Now, I am no expert, but it appears to be even more than he loves parking meters.

And then, I told you about how I got a boy.

That’s something you’ll have to ask Pat about yourself.

Q: Pat, tell me something about parking meters that people wouldn’t know.
A: Spiders. Spiders are the biggest thing: they get in there and make a web, and they dam ‘em up. Spiders all the time. Sometimes bees in there, but spiders are the biggest thing. Every time I take a dirty meter apart, right there: a spider, sometimes a dead spider.

The weather too. A lot of times, I had to take a meter out, and it wouldn’t run. So I put it on my dashboard to heat it up, thaw it out. Now, I take a torch.

Back in ‘72, just got hired, was trying to impress the new boss, young kid, ya know. Winter time, collecting money, and the damn thing won’t turn. So I blew on the lock, and so when I went to blow on it, my lip stuck to it, and I about tore half my lip off. So new boss said, “what are you doing?! We’ll just get it next time.” Now, I take a torch with me.

Q: Tell us how The University has changed. It’s been years, like what’s changed?
A: Oh, I think it’s great! This building. That. They’re tearing things down and building.

Q: What’s your favorite addition?
A: The Stadium! I opened that up! I showed you guys that. Oh yeah, I worked the first game. They had a big poster, and I was on it!

Q: Yes, I saw that down there [his workshop]. And what’s something they got rid of that you miss?
A: The METERS! That’s a no-brainer.

Q: Any advice for The University?
A: Put their parking meters back in!
We all had a good laugh.

Q: So what are your plans now?
A: Well, I did take some meters.
No worries. This was approved. Pat uses decommissioned parking meters to make lamps.

I was working on a lamp for my nephew. I promised him one. And you know what was there that was never there before when I worked on ‘em? A Coors Light!

And I’ll be at the Wing Warehouse. They have a real big screen. You can sit and watch all the games there.

Q: Well Pat, we just wanted you to know that we really appreciate you. We’re going to miss having you around. Don’t be a stranger.
A: Oh, this ain’t the last time you’ll see me. I gotta bring The Boss by.

Anyway, Outta beer. Outta here.

Before today, the last time I saw Pat, he handed over his keys and Zipcard. The time before that, he gave me all the manuals to all the parking meters and said, “thought you might need these. I don’t need ‘em,” and he pointed at his head to say they’re up here. And they are. It reminded me of this type of old timer who I’d see around a lot more when I was a kid: just a person who did something so long that it’s hard to picture anyone in the world being better at it.

Pat served this University, this community, this city, and this country. He’s a jokester and a storyteller, a father and a faithful husband, more in love today than a lifetime ago, a great employee and a friend to anyone who is willing to hear one of those stories. Having a chance to work with him in the last few months, which he extended just for us, just so that he could be the one to end the analog era of campus parking, was a true blessing. It makes me pause and consider all the great women and men who keep our systems running by dedicating their careers to perfecting the operation of one small component, a cog in the machine that runs our lives. And it makes me grateful.

If you see Pat, say “hello,” and stand back while he warms your heart and makes you laugh until your belly is sore. And thank him for his service.

Thanks, Pat. We love you. “Outta Beer. Outta Here.