With football championship making docks scarce in Tampa, Cross-Bay Ferry won't run Saturday
With college football crowds expected in downtown Tampa this weekend, city officials have recommended that visitors and residents make the most of alternate forms of transportation to get to events, including using the Cross-Bay Ferry from St. Petersburg.
But it turns out the bay area's big weekend means increased demand for dock space near the Tampa Convention Center, and as a result the ferry won’t be running Saturday.
“Due to increased boat traffic by the convention center this weekend, the dock the ferry typically uses is not available on Saturday,” Rich Mullins, a spokesman for the ferry, said in an email Thursday. “A backup dock was also not available due to other operations. The online ticket system has a note that alerts travelers to the change. All other runs are still on schedule: Friday, Sunday and Monday.”
The ferry loads and unloads passengers at a dock owned and operated by the Yacht StarShip dinner cruises charter. Yacht StarShip has provided the dock to the ferry at no charge subject to availability, owner Troy Manthey said, and the dock has two sides, so usually the ferry and Yacht StarShip can use it at the same time.
“We’ve gone above and beyond to provide them with free dockage,” Manthey said. (Ferry operators are "very, very appreciative" of that, Mullins said. "This saves the taxpayers significantly, and Troy is doing a great service.")
On Saturday, however, Yacht StarShip has two charters: a wedding and a private party related to Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship. So neither side of the dock is available. Manthey said he offered to let the ferry use Yacht Starship’s dock at Channelside.
While "overly gracious," the Channelside dock wouldn't work for a few reasons, Mullins said.
One, it would be a challenge to let the public know about that big of a change on short notice. Also, the walk from Channelside to the convention center is long, would be challenging for disabled passengers and the company doesn't have the means to produce signs for a one-day change in service. Finally, the ferry would have had to use the cruise ship channel, and a cruise ship departure Saturday afternoon would affect the ferry schedule.
Meanwhile, the waterfront around the convention center is filling up with other yachts coming to Tampa for the football championship.
City spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said she wasn’t aware that the ferry wouldn’t be running on Saturday, a day of the week when it typically carries several hundred passengers. She hoped people do think of it Friday and Sunday.
“That’s still an opportunity for people to cross the bay and visit Tampa or St. Petersburg on the days that it is running,” she said.