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SkyPoint preps for Gasparilla Parade — the good, bad and ugly

“I have the prime view,” said Jeff Mathieson, with Max, his miniature schnauzer. Mathieson is hosting a Gasparilla party Saturday in his second-floor condo at SkyPoint.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

“I have the prime view,” said Jeff Mathieson, with Max, his miniature schnauzer. Mathieson is hosting a Gasparilla party Saturday in his second-floor condo at SkyPoint.

DOWNTOWN — SkyPoint urbanites are battening down their hatches.

Tampa's biggest parade will march down Ashley Drive on Saturday in a new extended route designed to alleviate congestion in the Bayshore area.

This means that, for the first time, about 450 people living at SkyPoint will be mere feet from the revelry — which may be as much a curse as a blessing.

"We're guardedly optimistic," said Israel Diaz, president of SkyPoint's board of directors. "We've had our share of frat house events with disastrous results."

They'll lock the front door.

They'll issue wristbands to residents and guests (limited to 20 per unit) and enter through their own back door.

Some residents — not looking forward to throngs of drunken guests making their hallways party central — formed a Gasparilla committee to come up with ways to protect their property and their privacy.

In addition to the back-door-wristband-only entrance, they will close common areas and decks in the building, and block pedestrians from the parking deck, which has a low wall on the Ashley Drive side.

They fenced in outdoor green spaces and hired extra security.

"We're not looking forward to having our plants trampled. We're not looking forward to people peeing and vomiting on our sidewalks. We're pretty much going to hunker down," Diaz said.

Residents moved here for the downtown experience and generally welcome the progress, including new restaurants, the seasonal downtown market and two nearly completed museums across the street.

On Sunday, the city opened Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The long-awaited project included $15.7 million for the park grounds and $1.5 million to replace the Hillsborough River sea wall. The city also spent $18.6 million to help build the Tampa Museum of Art, which has its grand opening Feb. 6.

Jake Virag, 36, hopes to catch a strand of beads while watching his first-ever Gasparilla Parade if he doesn't have to work.

Virag bought a SkyPoint condo overlooking Tampa Street three years ago.

He recently showed off the view of Curtis Hixon from SkyPoint's eighth floor deck. Fountains dance in front of a lawn along the Hillsborough River next to the two museum sites, with the skyline punctuated by University of Tampa's minarets.

The park, which holds 10,000 people, will host several bands Saturday, including Collective Soul at 8 p.m.

The parade ends at the park.

"We're very exposed here," Diaz said. "It's going to be a long day."

But downstairs restaurants anticipate a big day.

James Pellizzi ordered 150 kegs and 10,000 cans of beer, hired a band and mixed a special "pirates punch."

"It could be 5,000 to 50,000," said the co-owner of Taps Wine & Beer Merchants, as well as Rawbar Sushi, both on SkyPoint's ground floor. "We really don't know what it's going to bring."

He says the route change was a pleasant surprise. He has hired extra help and stocked up on food, including quick and easy things like hot pretzels, sausage sliders and tuna tacos.

He is setting up outdoor bars, removing the couches, and fencing in the outline of the outdoors property. He'll charge a cover to enter.

"I think its going to be an exciting area to watch the parade," he said.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at (813) 226-3431 or eparker@sptimes.com.

SkyPoint preps for Gasparilla Parade — the good, bad and ugly 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 3:30am]
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