The logistics of getting around downtown Tampa to soak up the College Football Playoff scene this weekend requires the playbook of a top offensive coach. There's already a shortage of parking because of recent construction taking up Tampa lots. Thousands of football fans in town and free concerts by top music stars means locals and visitors will be jockeying for parking spaces and trying to navigate downtown Tampa.
The city of Tampa expects up to 15,000 in Curtis Hixon Park for free concerts Friday and Saturday and potentially more than 30,000 for Sunday's big show with Saturday Night Live's Jay Pharoah as host and performances by Gavin DeGraw, Jamie N Commons and headliner Usher.
"Keep hydrated, and the earlier you get there the better," said city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.
City officials will be making daily decisions on closing streets such as Ashley Drive to accommodate crowds. Here's a game plan for scoring a spot in the downtown Tampa end zone:
Consider the timing: Friday's concert in Curtis Hixon Park by country star Eric Paslay, the Shadowboxers and Clare Dunne runs 5-11 p.m., so you compete with rush hour traffic in the beginning. Get there early or expect to miss the opening acts. Saturday and Sunday's events run from noon to 11 p.m. Getting there early can ensure a better spot, but you better pack lots of sunscreen and water. The next bottleneck will be getting out, so expect your exit to take some time as well.
Parking: You can find a map of Tampa parking garages and ways to pay for parking with your smart phone at tampagov.net/parking. The garage nearest Curtis Hixon Park is essentially closed since it is in use by the event staff. The Fort Brooke garage downtown has the most available, with 2,600 spaces.
Hail a driver: Consider taking a cab, Uber or Lyft. Cut the cost by parking outside of the high-traffic zone and then hiring the car to take you to the rest of the way downtown.
Public transportation: You can park in Ybor City and ride on the TECO Historic Streetcar. It's $2.50 per ride; $5 all day to ride between Ybor City to downtown Tampa and the Channel District. See maps at tecolinestreetcar.org. The trolley, which passes through every 20-30 minutes, will be running until 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
By boat: For $10 you can take a 50-minute ride on the Cross Bay Ferry to downtown Tampa from the docks near the St. Petersburg Museum of History to the Convention Center in Tampa. See crossbayferry.com for departure times and tickets. Or catch a Pirate Water Taxi, piratewatertaxi.com, which has more than a dozen stops along the Hillsborough River, including Rick's on the River, the riverfront pub.
By bike: Park remotely and hop on one of the sky-blue rental bikes from Coast Bike Share to pedal around the 2.5-mile Riverwalk, a pedestrian space that links downtown's most popular destinations. Use the app — app.socialbicycles.com — and a credit card to reserve and find a bike.
Free rides: Take the Downtowner, tricked-out golf carts that offer free rides around downtown Tampa. Get the app and it will ask for your pickup and drop-off location. It's often slower than Uber but it's free. It runs from the University of Tampa area to Channelside. And the free HART In-Towner bus will run a loop through the Channel District and downtown every 10 minutes Friday through Sunday 11 a.m.- midnight.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.