Track construction ramps up for St. Petersburg grand prix
ST. PETERSBURG - With the race cars just days away from hitting downtown streets, crews are stepping up efforts to finish the course in time for the Honda Grand Prix this weekend. Monday, workers were building turns in the course and finishing the straightaway at Albert Whitted Airport, where crews started working on Saturday, said Paul Vaillancourt III, a spokesman for the race. Work began Feb. 15 on the race’s 1.8-mile circuit, which encompasses Pioneer Park, the Progress Energy Center for the Arts, the Dali Museum and the airport’s runways. That work needs to be finished by Wednesday, just days ahead of race weekend activities. But race officials say things are on-schedule. “It’s all on track,” Vaillancourt said.Practice runs are scheduled to start Friday morning for the grand prix and several other races being run here this weekend. Those races start on Saturday, while the grand prix is on Sunday. Monday, crews also started closing gaps in the course that have been left to provide access points for the waterfront and area businesses. But people will still have access to the businesses, Vaillancourt said. “Nobody’s stranded outside the circuit,” he said. “There’s always access to all things continuously throughout the weekend.” Race officials have worked to resolve the access issues that have frustrated some downtown residents and business owners, but impacts are inevitable. The Saturday Morning Market, for example, relocated from its location at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday and will be closed this weekend. And The Dali will slash ticket prices on Sunday in an effort to lure customers, who will have to buy a race ticket to even get to the museum, which will be surrounded by the track.