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There will be a few changes in parking -- so arrive early


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 1998

Many new goodies can be found at Raymond James Stadium, but don't hold your breath for less hassle finding a place to park.

There are 8,500 spaces on the stadium grounds and 25,000 more within a half-mile. The only real difference between Raymond James and Houlihan's Stadium is that the parking lots are designated by number instead of letter and are owned by the Bucs, not the Tampa Sports Authority.

parking map
Click map to see enlargement.
[Times art]
Though Raymond James has 7,980 fewer seats than Houlihan's, the smaller capacity will not translate into parking ease. The new stadium was built on land that was used for parking, so officials think the effect will be a wash, making it neither easier nor more difficult to find a spot.

Don't expect less traffic problems, either. Raymond James's location -- directly south of Houlihan's -- doesn't alleviate any of the old traffic snarls.

"It's basically going to be the same situation," said Barbara Casey, spokeswoman for the Tampa Sports Authority. "The stadium hasn't moved much, and people can use the same route as they did for the old one."

Traffic guru Elton Smith, the city's transportation manager, suggested finding a route that doesn't involve Dale Mabry Highway.

"Every year that road gets backed up, and this year it's going to be no less of a nightmare," he said.

Folks cruising in for a game may see something that wasn't around last year: video cameras.

Under a new computerized traffic-control plan, city engineers will monitor 10 cameras placed on the stadium's four corners. From a room in the stadium, the engineers will watch game-day traffic as it passes through key intersections. The engineers will relay information to the city's main traffic computer, which will control stop lights along Dale Mabry Highway to Howard Avenue.

City traffic officials think it could take up to an hour to clear the parking lots around the stadium after a game, about the time it took last year. Overall, expect few parking or traffic surprises.

"As far as new stadiums go," Smith said, "this is more the same than different."

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