Green flag drops on downtown St. Pete for Grand Prix weekend

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The green flag drops on three days of street legal racing this weekend at the launch of the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Featured in the tenth anniversary Grand Prix, the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, are both world-class racing and family-friendly activities, transforming downtown into one of the most beautiful (and fun) road circuit races.

Weekend events include a birds-eye view of the race from an 80-foot Ferris wheel (proceeds to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association) and the Hero Zone, a free, interactive military obstacle course that simulates some of the challenges faced during basic training.

Also on hand is Robby Gordon’s SPEED Stadium Super Trucks, where motocross meets Baja to thrill crowds with high jumps, crossovers and tight corners performed on the waterfront racetrack. ProMazda, USF2000 and Pirelli World Championship (PWC) series races will be at the Bright House Speed Zone and PWC Paddock on Saturday, March 29.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, one of the initial organizers to bring open-wheel racing to St. Petersburg, serves as Grand Marshal this year to raise the official green flag on Sunday, March 30.  ABC Sports broadcasts the Grand Prix worldwide beginning at 3:30 p.m.

To sing the national anthem is Major Christopher Barnett, Executive Officer and C-37A Instructor Pilot of the sixth Air Mobility at MacDill Air Force Base, flowed by Anna de Ferran, the 19-year-old daughter of three-time IndyCar champion Gil de Ferran, to sing “God Bless America” at the pre-race ceremonies.

De Ferran will also appear in the IndyCar Fan Village on Saturday, from 1:45-2 p.m. and 3:10 to 3:25 p.m.

The city is closing the following streets during the Grand Prix weekend:

  • First St. S. from First Ave. S. to Fifth Ave. S.
  • First Ave. S. from First St. to Bayshore
  • Beach Dr. from Central Ave. to First Ave. S.
  • Bayshore Dr. SE from First Ave. S. to Dali Blvd. (Fifth Ave.)

Limited access will be on:

  • Second Ave. S. from First to Second Sts. 
  • First St. S. from Fifth Ave. S. (Dali Blvd.) to Eighth Ave. S.
  • Sixth Ave. S. from Second to First Sts. 

Both the Dali Museum and Mahaffey Theater box office will be closed this weekend.

Also closed during the event is Albert Whitted Park to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Access to USF-St. Petersburg, the Coast Guard station, the Port of St. Petersburg and Demen’s Landing will be permitted; however, but the boat ramp will be closed. After Sunday’s checkered flag, all roads and areas affected by the Grand Prix will reopen by April 11, with a few main roads open as early as Monday.

Firestone Grand Prix tickets are still available, including one, two and three-day passes, group discounts for 10 or more, reserved seats or general admission and paddock passes ranging from $20 to $135. Purchase tickets by phone at 877-283-5385 or www.gpstpete.com; tickets are also available onsite at Gate 1 (First St. and First Ave.) or Gate 5 (Second St. and Fifth Ave. S.).  For more information, visit www.gpstpete.com.

Remote Parking is available at Tropicana Field in Lots 6A and 7A for $10, with a free Grand Prix shuttle to the track. The shuttle operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Fans should enter from Third Ave. S. or Fifth Ave. S. The free Tropicana Field shuttle includes dedicated wheelchair-accessible trolleys. 

The Looper Downtown Trolley and Central Avenue Trolley offer rides throughout race weekend for just 50 cents per person (exact change required) in the downtown fare zone. The Looper Trolley runs Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Looper stops are located near the Bayfront Hilton, 333 First St. S., or the Hampton Inn and Suites, 80 Beach Dr. NE.

Find additional parking information and maps at www.stpete.org/grandprix

SPGPparkingmap

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.