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At Pirate Fest, parking could take battle plan


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001

TAMPA -- You've decided you absolutely must attend this year's Gasparilla Pirate Fest. Now what do you do?

Set your alarm clock for an early wake-up Saturday, police say, and plan on being in a good mood.

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"Come early, and be very, very patient," advised Tampa police Deputy Chief Jane Siling, who is organizing the department's Gasparilla traffic plan.

Although the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship does not dock at the Tampa Convention Center until 1 p.m., with the parade following at 1:45, officials are encouraging folks to be situated by 9 a.m. to avoid headaches.

"We are expecting approximately 500,000 to 600,000 people," Siling said. "You can't fit any more down there."

There are extra signs pointing the way for those not familiar with Hyde Park and downtown Tampa, Siling said.

As soon as the side streets in Hyde Park fill up with parked cars, they will be closed off, she said, as will the city's parking garages, which are open during Gasparilla.

There will be downtown parking lots that charge a fee, she said. In lieu of that, "We are encouraging people to use shuttles."

Two shuttles will operate on Saturday.

One will run from MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa to DeLeon Avenue between Hyde Park Avenue and Plant Avenue, from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

The second shuttle will run from 9 a.m. until midnight from the Florida State Fairgrounds, just east of Tampa on U.S. 301 near Interstate 4, to Kennedy and Madison in downtown Tampa.

Parking at both locations is free, and the cost of the shuttle ride is $5 for the round trip.

A change in the route this year will leave Kennedy Boulevard open, Siling said, which should alleviate last year's bottleneck for folks trying to leave Davis Islands and head north.

About 100 more officers are working this year, for a total of about 600, she said.

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