St. Pete readies for Rock N’ Roll half-marathon weekend

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St. Petersburg gets ready to rock more than 8,000 runners through downtown during the inaugural running of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. Pre-race activities kick off with a Health and Fitness Expo today and Saturday at Tropicana Field, followed by the half marathon and post-race concert by Grammy-nominated artist Flo-Rida between 9 and 11 a.m. at North Shore Park.

Residents are encouraged to browse more than 60 vendors stocked with running apparel, footwear, nutritional products, or attend fitness clinics for healthy lifestyle tips during the free Rock N Roll Health and Fitness Expo at Tropicana Field, today and Saturday, February 10 and 11. The Expo will be open for runners picking up race packets, as well as for the shopping public from Noon to 6 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free and guests should enter from Gate 1. Parking at Tropicana Field costs $15.  For Expo information and a schedule of clinics and speakers, visit http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/st-petersburg/expo.

Also, free two-hour on-street parking is available surrounding Tropicana Field; motorists are advised to follow posted parking regulations and plan their trip accordingly. Parking is also available Friday and Saturday in metered spaces or in one of the city’s two downtown parking garages, BayWalk (enter from Second St. N.) and South Core (enter from First Ave. S.). Parking in either BayWalk or South Core will cost $5.

Following the Expo, guests are encouraged to leave their car at Tropicana Field and head downtown aboard the Central Ave. Trolley to sample The Pier, museums, and one-of-a-kind waterfront shopping and dining for just 50 cents per person.  Three shuttle stops are located a short walk from Tropicana Field on Central Ave. between 16th St. N. to just past 13th St. N.

On race day, parking for spectators and race participants without prepaid Tropicana parking is available at BayWalk (enter from Second St. N.) for $5. Race participants who have prepaid parking may park at Tropicana Field prior to 6:45 a.m. on race day for easy access to the starting line. At the finish line, racers may return via shuttle to Tropicana Field and their vehicles. Parking and shuttle tickets will be available for purchase during the Expo’s Race Day Park & Ride Booth.

Spectators wishing to show their support at the start and finish of the half marathon are encouraged to attend the Official Spectator Block Party at Ferg’s, 1320 Central Ave., make a sign to support friends or family on the course and catch a $5 shuttle to the finish line. Finish line shuttles run from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and tickets will be on sale only on race day inside Fusion 1560. Alternate parking is available downtown at BayWalk (enter from Second St. N.) or on-street in legally-accessible parking spaces.

Initial race preparations get underway at midnight Sunday when crews begin clearing streets of parked vehicles. Patrons of downtown businesses late Saturday night are encouraged to find legally-accessible parking in areas on the perimeter of the race course, including the two city-owned garages. Residents who park on-street overnight should remove their vehicles from the race course by 3:30 a.m. Sunday to avoid receiving a parking citation or being towed. Residential parking permits will not exempt vehicles from being ticketed/towed. Streets are expected to remain closed to traffic through 1 p.m. Sunday. A complete list of closures, no parking zones and times is attached or may be printed from http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/st-petersburg/road-closures.

Motorists will see major street closures and traffic delays downtown from midnight Sunday through approximately Noon, with the heaviest congestion occurring between 6 a.m. and Noon. Major streets impacted by the half marathon include Central Ave., First Ave. S., Fourth St. S., Third St. S., Snell Isle Blvd., North Shore Dr. N.E. and Bayshore Dr. N.E. and S.E. Uniformed officers will staff key intersections and may pulse traffic across a limited number of intersections if a break in the runner field occurs. Motorists traveling around downtown on Sunday are advised to allow extra time to arrive at their destination. Those wishing to avoid detours and street closures from the half marathon should utilize 34th St. for unimpeded travel north and south of downtown St. Petersburg.

Traffic officials anticipate the course to be cleared of all runners around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, with streets being reopened on a rolling basis. Only North Shore Dr. N.E. between 12th Ave. N.E. and 13th Ave. N.E. will remain closed on Sunday until approximately 3 p.m.

Riders who use PSTA or the Central Ave. Trolley will also see some service disruptions or delays due to Sunday’s half marathon. Riders are advised to plan their routes carefully and allow enough time to get to their destination. For information on affected routes, visitwww.psta.net or www.stpetetrolley.com.

Pre-race festivities kick off the weekend with a free Friday Night Concert at Ferg’s, 1320 Central Ave., featuring Big Brother.  The party starts at 8 p.m. and lasts through midnight. On Saturday, don’t miss the Saturday Night Rock n’ Roll Block Party on Central Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd Sts. from 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., featuring live music, great food and beverage specials and free admission. Between 6 and 8 p.m., Ferg’s hosts the Official Rock N Roll St. Pete Pasta Party for runners wishing to increase their carb intake. Limited tickets are available at www.competitor.com for $20. Everyone’s welcome to watch the sun set and enjoy free live music from local bands tonight, Saturday and Sunday at The Pier’s Courtyard by the Bay, 200 Second Ave. N.E.  Hear Highwater debut from 7 to 11 p.m. tonight on the main stage; on Saturday, Solid Core kicks off rock you can roll to from 1 to 7 p.m. before The Tempests take the stage from 7 to 11 p.m. for more rockin’ sounds.  Sunday, Talk to Mark rounds out half marathon weekend with a free concert from 1 to 4 p.m. Details are available at www.stpetepier.com.  Following the half marathon, participants, volunteers and spectators are invited to wind down over the water at the official Rock n’ Roll After Party at Jonny Reno’s at The Pier from 1 to 5 p.m. Participants receive a free Michelob Ultra with an Official Finisher’s medal or Volunteer’s Race Crew tee. For more information, visit http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/2012/01/st-petersburg/weekend-events-in-st-pete_24207.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.