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Skates, boats, bats to fill the city

Overlapping events on downtown St. Petersburg's waterfront include ESPN's X Trials, baseball and a boat show.

St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront is likely to be mobbed this weekend as ESPN's X Trials, a college baseball tournament and a boat show with 400 watercraft all set up within the space of a few blocks.

Inline skaters, stunt bicyclists and skateboarders will compete at Spa Beach and in a parking lot at The Pier while ESPN videotapes them.

At the nearby Bayfront Center, the St. Petersburg Spring Boat Sale will fill the yacht basin and arena.

Next door at Florida Power Park, the University of South Florida will host the Conference USA Baseball Championships.

The baseball tournament began Wednesday, and the X Trials and boat show begin today. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, fortunately, are on the road in Seattle.

"Last time, the X Trials alone drew 65,000 to 69,000 people," said Jacqulyn Schuett, of the city government's marketing department. "For the Fourth of July we usually count the number around 100,000 people downtown. With the baseball activity and the boat show, this weekend is likely to surpass that."

The city's parking and traffic managers are working to ensure that cars move smoothly and that drivers have a place to leave them, she said. The trolley-shaped, pink Looper buses will work overtime to move spectators from downtown hotels and parking garages to the event sites.

Parking will be available at the Bayfront Center, the garage at 101 First Ave. S, in private lots downtown and along city streets.

The city last hosted the X Trials in 1998, and ESPN chose to return. The network is also bringing back the X Games Xperience, an activity area that lets spectators learn about and try extreme sports.

The X Trials events will take place between about 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.

Hoping more people have become familiar with "extreme sports," the network has planned ahead for a bigger crowd than last time, said Katie Moses, a spokeswoman for the X Trials.

"We'll have some room for people to put out blankets so they can sit down," she said. "Last time, it was standing room only. We have a huge roster of athletes coming."

Dane Graziano, vice president of Show Management Inc., which is hosting the boat show, said he is not worried about the overlapping events causing overcrowding downtown. In fact, he hopes that some who come downtown for baseball or extreme sports will duck into the boat show while they're at it.

"We have ample parking here," he said.

On land, the show will display 250 boats from 14 to 32 feet long. There will be 150 others _ including a 54-foot Bertram yacht _ floating in the yacht basin. Graziano expects 6,000 people a day to attend.

For the college baseball tournament, as many as four baseball games may be held between 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Depending on how the double-elimination tournament goes, the 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. games may not be needed.

Each game is expected to draw a few hundred to 1,500 spectators, said Russell Anderson, athletic conference spokesman.

"You've got two nationally ranked teams here, Tulane and Houston," he said. "Houston is ranked 6th and Tulane 24th. You come out here and a bunch of these guys' names who will be called are future stars. I would just throw out a ballpark figure that 5 to 10 players in the tournament might reach the major-league level."

THE X TRIALS

For more information

X Trials information: http://espn.go.com/extreme/ s/0501xtrialseventsked.html

Spring Boat Sale: http://www.showmanagement.com/ stpetersburgboatsaleframe.htm

Conference USA Baseball Championships: http://www.conferenceusa.org/ sports/baseball/

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