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X Trials usher in crowded weekend

Crowds for three large events in downtown St. Petersburg may surpass 100,000, a city official says.

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.

"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 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 parking 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.

"We have ample parking here."