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Here’s everything you need to know heading into this year’s Grand Prix

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s race week in St. Pete. The St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix kicks off this Friday and runs through Sunday in downtown. Whether residents are going to the race or just trying to navigate downtown for other activities, here’s everything you need to know about St. Pete’s busiest weekend.

Parking will be a challenge. Loads of extra bike racks will be set up at Grand Prix entry points to encourage fans to bike rather than drive to the event. For those who do drive, all-day parking rates in City garages will be in effect. Those rates are $5 on Friday and $15 on Saturday and Sunday. Parking for the race is available at the South Core garage on First Avenue South between First and Second Streets and the Sundial garage on Second Street North between First and Second Avenue North.

A park and ride shuttle is available to and rom Tropicana Field from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on race days. Parking in lots one and two is available for $10. The shuttle will pick passengers up on 16th Street in front of Tropicana Field and drop them off at the race.

Fans are also encouraged to take public transportation. The Central Avenue Trolley and downtown looper will be just $0.50 over the weekend. Those routes are available from 10 a.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Street parking will also be available on a first-come, first-served basis for person’s with disabilities at no charge. Some parking is timed, but most will be available all day.

Motorcycles riders can utilize special “motorcycle corrals” for parking on the west side of First Street between First Avenue South and Central Avenue on Saturday and Sunday, but not Friday. Spaces are first come, first served for $5.

There are two entry gates fans can enter and exit the race through. Those are located at the intersection of First Avenue South and First Street South, gate one, and Fifth Avenue South and Second Street South, gate 5. Both gates have wheelchair access. Gate one offers just a ticket booth while Gate five contains a Will Call center.

Traffic closures include Beach Drive from Central Avenue to First Avenue South, First Street from First Avenue South to Fifth Avenue South and Albert Whitted Park. Areas of limited access include Second Avenue South from First to Second Street and First Street South from Fifth Avenue South to Eight Avenue South and Sixth Avenue South from Second Street to First Street.

The Dali Museum will also be closed on all three race days. It will re-open on March 14th.

There’s a long list of items to leave at home this year. That includes obvious items such as firearms, weapons and illegal drugs. It also includes things like coolers, pets, folding chairs, gas grills, fireworks, pepper spray, noisemakers, banners and aerosol cans. A Complete list of items not to bring to the race is on the Grand Prix website.

Permissible items include binoculars, seat cushions, small cameras, purses, backpacks, small bags, strollers, umbrellas, mobility aids and cell phones.

There is also a list of prohibited actions intended to keep fans, drivers and crews safe. Those include carrying open food or beverage containers over bridges and track crossings, abuse of intoxicants,, disorderly conduct including profanity, placing cups on walls, running, standing on grandstand seats, smoking in prohibited areas, spitting tobacco and standing or sitting in walkways, aisles or ramps.

Adult tickets for all three days of racing start at $55 and go up to $135. Junior passes for fans up to 12 years old are available at a discounted rate. Single day tickets are also available.

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 [email protected]

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