Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Race week in St. Pete gets City Council’s green flag

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council approves Race Week 2016 for the March 10-13 Grand Prix in downtown. Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination, touted the race as an “off the charts” opportunity for the city.

“There’s a staggering economic impact,” Ballestra said noting the $40 million impact and $5 million in direct impact. “We don’t have anything that compares.”

The event draws more than 1.5 million TV viewers across a number of stations worldwide. It will be broadcast locally on ABC. And the impressions associated with the Grand Prix trump other events because it’s directly tied to the Sunshine City.

Unlike baseball games and other events nationally or internationally televised, St. Petersburg is actually in the name – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Other events are logged under the vague “Tampa Bay” classification. And any resident who travels know that the question “where are you from” has to sometimes be answered with Tampa, rather than St. Pete because it’s more widely recognized by outsiders. The Grand Prix is one event that could help shatter that conception.

Ballestra also reminds race fans to turn their clocks ahead. This year’s “Spring forward” beginning of Daylight Savings time begins in the wee morning hours of Sunday, March 13. If folks miss that change, they’ll miss race times.

The race is expected to draw about 140,000 people between race fans, media and participants. Tickets for the event run $55 for an adult 3-day pass. Single day admission is also available. Ticket prices increase for grandstand seating and paddock passes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive tackle and four-time pro-bowler Gerald McCoy was named this year’s Grand Marshal.



Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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