By Jake May
Times Staff Writer
If you're heading out to Clearwater Beach on Wednesday night to catch Criss Angel's death-defying escape from the Spyglass Hotel implosion, you might want to channel some of his inner cool.
That's because with an expected crowd of 10,000 spectators, traffic and parking on the notoriously grid-locked spit of land will require planning, patience and perhaps the ability to levitate above crowds so you can actually see what's going on when the show starts at 10 p.m.
For those who don't like what they've read so far, you can stay home and watch it on A&E. But for those who just want to be part of the Mindfreak experience, here are a few tricks you can use to help make your trip to the beach tolerable.
Getting there: "If you are planning to come, come early," said Doug Matthews, Clearwater's public communications director. "We expect traffic backups around 7 or 8 p.m. Come with the idea that you may have to park and walk. ... The best way to ensure a spot is to get there, get parked and get situated."
Parking do's and don'ts: Public lots are available north (near Pier 60) and south (below Fifth Street) of the buffer zones, but are expected to fill up quickly. And it's not going to be free. All meters and regular costs will apply, and there will be parking enforcement officers out until 1 a.m.
Matthews said those who don't mind walking should consider St. Brendan's Catholic Church, 245 Dory Passage, near the , which is opening its 300-space lot for free Mindfreak parking. (For those only vaguely familiar with the beach, the location is a fairly long distance from the roundabout entrance to the beach, so if you do plan on trying to park there, expect a long hike.)
Be aware that on-street parking on Coronado Drive east of Gulfview Boulevard will be closed, as will a couple of smaller lots operated by a private company. Those have been reserved for the TV production folks, dignitaries and officials.
Party while you wait: At least one business is taking advantage of all the commotion. Shephard's (601 S Gulfview Blvd.) is hosting an "implosion party" just down the road from the real thing, with no cover. Since the place is full of TVs, there will be no need to miss the drawn-out drama while quaffing $3 20-ounce domestic drafts and $2 domestic cans and bottles.
"Everyone is ranting and raving about this," said Robyn Woolrich, a receptionist at Shepard's. "It's going to be packed all along Clearwater Beach."
Boom with a view: The Calypso Queen, which can be found along Coronado Drive at the Clearwater Beach Marina, will be coming into port and staying dockside for the night. At 9:45 p.m., passengers will be let aboard for $8 for the chance at an elevated view and music.
"Should be much better than the sidewalk," said Phil Henderson, owner of the cruise ship. "Not sure how Criss is going to pull it off, but I'm sure he's thought of it more than I have. At least, I hope so."