The coming of the annual Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the city's streets conjures up a kaleidoscope of images: speed, sound, the smell of burning rubber. But with that comes another reality: trash ... 52 tons of it.
Five hundred and seventy-six newly minted 90-gallon black garbage bins already dot areas around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course that snakes its way around Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey Theater, the Salvador Dalí Museum and the northern edge of Albert Whitted Airport.
Large containers and compactors staffed by the city will swallow the contents of the hundreds of garbage bins filled by an anticipated 150,000-plus racing fans, drivers and their crews, and food, beverage and souvenir vendors.
There's a new wrinkle this year — the Budweiser Clydesdales — but the famous horses and their manure should not mean extra work for those responsible for keeping the venue clean.
"My understanding is that the Clydesdale handlers take care of that,'' said Kevin Dunn, the city's point person for the three-day event.
Planning for the Grand Prix is detailed and extensive, Dunn said.
"It's a year-round planning exercise that really intensifies during December and extends through the event and then afterward,'' he said. A city "race team'' is made up of subcommittees that divide responsibilities such as transportation and parking, public safety and hospitality and, of course, sanitation.
Friday, seven days before the annual race was to begin, workers painted barricades and streets and hauled garbage cans into place. Keeping the venue clean is a joint endeavor of city employees and a private sanitation company, Sarge's, hired by the race promoter.
Garbage began to be generated days before the engines were to start, as vendors and others arrived to set up. Each year, Dunn said, the city times its replacement purchase of the 90-gallon garbage cans with the race. Afterward, the new cans are put into the inventory for residents. Tree trimming, asphalt and sidewalk repairs also are planned to coincide with the televised race.
Last week, the black garbage bins were lined up like sentinels in the Mahaffey Theater parking lot. They had been brought there without wheels or lids for easy transportation. Wheels installed, workers stacked them into small trucks to be distributed around the race area. For the event, most cans will have their lids off, making it easier for fans to dispose of their trash. As a safety measure, bins near the pit area will have lids to prevent garbage from flying onto the track.
Tony Leno, who works in the engineering and capital improvements department, coordinates city services for the race.
"It's like a choreographed dance and there's a hundred of us with a different dance card,'' he said.
Leno works with Willie Joseph, the sanitation department's residential manager, to make sure that garbage cans, Dumpsters and compactors are in the right locations. He also lets Joseph know when his employees can be on the site to take care of the massive amounts of garbage generated by the event.
"The biggest challenge is making sure we have enough capacity to store it until the race event is over,'' Leno said.
Garbage from the 576 bins is emptied throughout the day by the private company into containers placed out of sight, he said.
City employees clear the containers as needed, Joseph said, praising the private firm for its work during the event.
"They're the ones that physically pick up the garbage off the ground, empty the 90-gallon containers,'' he said.
The job of keeping the race area pristine is a task few people think about, Dunn said.
"It's one of those things that if it wasn't done right, people would notice,'' he said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.