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Dalí Museum visitors will to have shell out for a race ticket, too, on Grand Prix weekend

For the Honda Grand Prix, Fifth Avenue S, the Dali Boulevard, is closed to traffic near the Salvador Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg. Museum officials hope, at a combined $41-$61, Grand Prix fans show their “worldly interests.”

SCOTT KEELER | Times

For the Honda Grand Prix, Fifth Avenue S, the Dali Boulevard, is closed to traffic near the Salvador Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg. Museum officials hope, at a combined $41-$61, Grand Prix fans show their “worldly interests.”

ST. PETERSBURG

If you're planning to visit the new Salvador Dalí Museum on the weekend of the seventh annual Honda Grand Prix, there's good news and bad news.

The good news: The museum will be open during the race, which runs from March 25 to March 27. The bad news: You will have to pay up to $40 general admission for a race ticket —on top of the museum's $21 admission.

Oh, and you can't park at the museum either — the parking lots there will be full of trucks catering to the race cars and drivers.

The surreal culture clash between St. Petersburg's elegant new arts destination and its revved-up racing competition is "uncharted territory" that both are trying to work through, said Tim Ramsberger, vice president and general manager of Andretti Green Promotions, promoters of the annual race.

Can melting watches and burning rubber work together for the good of St. Petersburg?

"We're looking forward to finding that out," said Hank Hine, executive director of the Dalí.

When the Dalí was in its original waterfront location on Third Street S, the race was not a problem. But its new location at what used to be the Bayfront Center has put it smack in the middle of the Grand Prix route, which sends the race cars on 181 laps that also pass Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey Theater, Progress Energy Park and even the runways at Albert Whitted Airport.

Museum officials, who saw a record-setting single-day attendance of 3,000 people this past Thursday, have chosen to keep their doors open during the three-day race — at least this year, to see if it works.

"We've heard that the Grand Prix draws a very interesting and diverse crowd with a lot of worldly interests," Hine said. "They're supposed to be distinct from other race fans — the people who come are interested in culture."

Museum visitors will have to buy a race ticket because the museum is situated inside the area cordoned off for the race. That means, on Friday, spending $10 for a general admission race ticket on top of a $21 museum ticket. On Saturday, race tickets are $25 for general admission, and on Sunday they're $40 — meaning a trip to the museum would be $61 that day.

The museum staff has planned no special event to cater to the race crowd, although Hine noted that in the lobby there's a 1933 Rolls-Royce modified so that rain pours down and lightning flickers inside the car as a surrealist gag. Perhaps race car fans will find that interesting, he said.

This isn't exactly a comfortable fit for the race, either. Before the Dalí was built in its new location, the Grand Prix used that area for parking the trucks bringing in the race cars. Now that space is considerably smaller, Ramsberger said.

"This is a whole new dynamic" for both of them, he said.

During the four days prior to the race, when the track is off-limits to traffic, the museum will run a shuttle from the Pier parking lots for its patrons. But during the race, anyone who wants to visit the Dalí will have to park at Tropicana Field, just like the race fans, and ride the same shuttles they're using.

Ramsberger predicted the race would end up being a boon for the Dalí. Since the museum has painted its name on the roof of its distinctive building, he said, "in effect they're going to get a 2 1/2 hour live commercial on ABC" thanks to aerial shots of the race.

The museum staff is a little concerned about how much noise from the roaring engines will filter into the building, Hine said. Normally, very little sound gets through its windows, which are two thick panes of glass separated by a layer of argon gas, "but at 130 decibels, I don't know," he said.

Despite that, the museum's collection of art won't need to be stored away or moved because of the noise and vibration, said Cindy Cockburn, the Dalí's public relations spokeswoman.

"We're built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane," said Cockburn. "We will never have to move our paintings."

Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

Dalí Museum visitors will to have shell out for a race ticket, too, on Grand Prix weekend 03/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 8:47am]
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