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Fans welcome at Firestone Grand Prix, as long they are healthy

Margie Manning

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2018 Firestone Grand Prix (Photo credit: City of St. Petersburg Flickr)

About 20,000 spectators will be allowed at the upcoming Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Organizers told the St. Petersburg City Council that the massive outdoor site for the race means that there can be about 11 feet of social distancing between the spectators, or nearly twice that recommended by public health officials.

All fans will have to wear masks or facial coverings, said Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Green Savoree of St. Petersburg. Health screening questions and temperature checks will be conducted on all spectators before they can get through the gates, hand sanitizer stations and hand washing stations will be pervasive throughout the site, and cleaning and sanitation teams will be on site constantly cleaning and disinfecting.

Race organizers also have the ability to do contact tracing, if needed

“Even more that, if a fan, a spectator has any symptoms, then we have a policy and a procedure to take them to a quarantine area at the track at the event and if St. Pete EMS decides that testing is appropriate, we’ve made arrangements with Global Medical Response to perform a rapid test so we will know in 15 minutes if someone is positive,” Savoree said.

Fans should also self-evaluate, he said, advising, “If you don’t feel well, stay home.”

Council members approved a resolution establishing race days for the 2020 event from Oct. 22 to Oct. 25. It will be the final event in the 2020 NTT IndyCar season.

The race historically has opened the IndyCar season and originally was scheduled in March, but was canceled as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

“We know a lot more know now about the virus and how to go on day to day. The plan that we presented we believe has the best industry standards,” Savoree told council members.

The Firestone Grand Prix is held in downtown St. Petersburg in an 84-acre, 3.6 million square foot open-air venue, built around a 1.8 mile race track. Track, paddocks and Al Lang Field take up approximately 24 acres, leaving about 60 acres or 2.5 million square feet of available fan space.

Before the race takes place, messaging will be sent to spectators outlining what to expect and reinforcing health assessment questions, according to a letter Green Savoree sent to the city.

The letter outlined several other safety steps:

• Seating will be assigned with distancing between groups in all grandstands and enforced with markings and signage in general admission areas to separate groups and adhere to distancing requirements.

• All competitors will be separated from public spectators. Pit lane and competitor paddocks will be closed to spectators.

• Additional space will be added in the open-air suite structure to accommodate a two-way aisle and expand, adding about 35 percent in area to each suite.

• Two longtime Green Savoree employees will serve as designated compliance officers.

Messaging will be sent in advance and Green Savoree plans a major social media push to let fans know what to expect when they arrive at the race.

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