St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Officials confident about game-day parking

With about 20,000 motorists looking for a place to park, spaces in residential neighborhoods are expected to be hot commodities.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2001


TAMPA -- While the NFL expects some 90,000 people to converge on Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl XXXV, league traffic consultants say the abundance of bus-travelers -- and thousands of car spaces in residential neighborhoods -- should help prevent the parking pinch from spiraling into bedlam.

Still, with that many people, a lot of things can go wrong. There are variables, such as how many so-called "lookyloos" show up -- people without tickets who go to the stadium to soak up the ambiance.

"We're worried about it, but we've done a couple things a little different" to accommodate parking needs, said Jim Steeg, the league's vice president of special events. The NFL, for example, will take advantage of 4,400 extra spaces at a nearby office park not typically used for sporting events.

Paul Ridgeway, a transportation consultant for the Super Bowl, said an expected 800 to 1,000 buses, plus 400 to 500 limousines, will carry in visitors, which will account for perhaps a third of the crowd.

By Ridgeway's calculations, that means some 20,000 vehicles will require parking spaces, with a large chunk available at Tampa Bay Center, the Tampa Bay Office Park, Hillsborough Community College, Al Lopez Park and Legends Field.

In addition, he said, 3,000 to 4,000 cars are expected to park at residential neighborhoods east of Himes Avenue.

"That becomes a real release valve," Ridgeway said. "We're in pretty good shape."

Of the roughly 10,000 parking spaces normally available at Raymond James Stadium, the NFL Experience and hospitality tents have crowded almost all of them out. Barbara Casey, spokeswoman for the Tampa Sports Authority, said that while there will be enough parking elsewhere to accommodate motorists, many will have to forsake "an up-close personal parking space. That's not going to happen."

While the chill left some visitors shivering as they walked from their cars to the NFL Experience last weekend, the weather is expected to improve.

Dick Fletcher, chief meteorologist for WTSP-Channel 10, said the weather should be clear to partly cloudy from now until game day. On Saturday and Sunday, he said, the temperature should reach the 70s. During the game itself, which begins at 6:18 p.m., he said he expected it would be in the 60s.

"Out of the next seven days, Sunday will be the nicest day," Fletcher said.

Amid all the other preparations, hundreds of news people from around the world were pouring into the Tampa Convention Center to set up shop. Radio jockeys did live broadcasts, barking into microphones, while some reporters relaxed in the television lounge, ate free finger foods, and tossed around a miniature football.

More than 150 international media organizations are expected. Sixto Lopez Casamadrid came from La Cronica de Cancun, an 18,000-circulation daily newspaper in Cancun.

"In Mexico, it's very popular," he said of NFL football. "It's played from the peewee level to university." This is his eighth Super Bowl.

One of the perks for journalists at the media center: A free rub-down, paid for by the Super Bowl Task Force, which more than a dozen people had taken advantage of by mid-day. "While you are in Tampa ... Have a massage!" reads the sign.

- Times staff writer Babita Persaud contributed to this report. Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or goffard@sptimes.com.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.