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Firestone Grand Prix reprises Covid safety plan for April race in St. Pete

Margie Manning

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Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Green Savoree)

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set for the last weekend in April, under a resolution approved Thursday by the St. Petersburg City Council.

The race was originally scheduled for this weekend but was pushed to April 22-25, to be “Covid conscious,” Chris Ballestra, managing director, city development administration, told council members.

The St. Pete race, a 1.8 mile over downtown streets, traditionally kicked off the IndyCar season, but it will be the second race on the IndyCar schedule his year. Shifting the date allows more fans to attend, according to a news release from Green Savoree St. Petersburg LLC, which operates the race.

Green Savoree has submitted a Covid-19 safety plan to the city that caps attendance at 20,000 people per day. That’s that same attendance cap that was in place in October, when the St. Pete race closed out the IndyCar series after postponing the event by seven months.

“A Covid mitigation plan by both Green Savoree and a supplemental and equally important one from IndyCar was not only provided, but has become a standard that is referenced by the County of Pinellas. We have submitted this plan to the county of Pinellas and they have concurred with it.  We feel very good about the safety of this event,” Ballestra said.

In addition to the attendance cap, competitors, spectators and everyone associated with the event will be subject to a health screening and temperature check before entry is permitted. All attendees will be required to wear masks or facial coverings at all times except when eating or drinking. Public health recommended guidelines of at least six feet of social distancing will be maintained while on site. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be prevalent across the venue, Green Savoree said.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said he’s confident the protocols will allow for a safe and fun race weekend while also boosting the local economy and showcasing the city to the world. The race will be broadcast live nationally on NBC on April 25, with practices and qualifying rounds livestreamed on Peacock Premium.

St. Petersburg has had street racing since 1985, and this is the 17th year that Green Savoree has operated the race, Ballestra said.

“When the race first came to St. Pete, the city was in the middle of a renaissance. A lot of people called us God’s waiting room,”  City Council Chair Ed Montanari said. “We made a transition to a younger, more vibrant, exciting place to live. IndyCar put a stamp on that.”

Fans who attended last year’s race and purchased 3-Day tickets can renew their tickets until Monday, March 15th at 5 p.m. Public ticket sales will open on Thursday, March 18th at 2 p.m.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would return to early March dates in the upcoming three years as part of an agreement also approved by the City Council. Future scheduled dates are:

March 10 through 13, 2022

March 9 through 12, 2023

March 7 through 10, 2024

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