Firestone Grand Prix returns to St. Pete for 13th year

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 2016

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) —The Firestone Grand Prix is back for the 13th year in St. Petersburg.

The event kicks off this Friday, but business owners have already been preparing for an economic boom.

Restaurants and stores along Beach Drive are entertaining a high volume of customers as crowds flock to St. Petersburg for some race action.

“A lot of out of town people obviously come in for it and it’s a good draw,” said Mat Lace, GM of Stillwaters Tavern.

They’re finding ways to draw race fans in.

“We’re trying to attract them, absolutely and that’s just one way to show our appreciation for the people that come in town,” he said. “Fortunately we’re pretty much in season now, so we’re pretty much prepared every weekend.”

Other restaurants like Ceviche, offer a view. The establishment is conveniently located in front of the track.

“We have a nice little spot where you can see a little corner of the race for free and during the day it’s perfect. and then people need somewhere to go at night, so it really helps us out. It’s a nice boost to us,” said David Madera, Director of Operations.

Business owners at shops and boutiques are also taking advantage of the foot traffic. Some say the rush is unpredictable.

“I remember one time we had a wonderful time with the mothers of the car racers and great business, great time,” said Megan Simons, owner of Pippa Pelure. “Sometimes, people come and look and observe what’s happening here, but I think it’s a great thing for our city.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the races bring in millions of tourism dollars each year.

“One of the things that we as a city and my administration work really hard on is getting them to stay here in St. Pete before and after the race,” said Mayor Kriseman.



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