New St. Pete Pier set for a quiet opening on July 6

Mayor Rick Kriseman announces plans for a subdued debut of the 26-acre Pier District amid concerns about the coronavirus.
Construction continues on the new St. Petersburg Pier on May 22.
Construction continues on the new St. Petersburg Pier on May 22. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published June 19, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — The city’s new Pier will open on July 6, making an understated debut as concerns about the coronavirus continue.

The announcement was made in a press release Friday that said visitors will be welcomed to the 26-acre destination beginning at 5 p.m. that Monday, following the July 4th weekend.

Newly installed signs mark the entrance to the new St. Petersburg Pier on May 22.
Newly installed signs mark the entrance to the new St. Petersburg Pier on May 22. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Mayor Rick Kriseman originally announced that the $92 million Pier District would open on May 30, an occasion that was expected to draw throngs from around the Tampa Bay area and beyond, but the pandemic forced a postponement. The recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the state has caused city officials to plan a subdued unveiling, with “no organized mass gathering” to celebrate. Additional details related to a “safe opening” will soon be shared, the city said.

“It’s been a long and winding road, but we’ve arrived at our destination: A dynamic, 26-acre waterfront playground that will serve residents and visitors for generations to come,” Kriseman said in a statement. “It’s time for everyone to experience all the Pier District and St. Pete Pier has to offer.”

Related: St. Pete’s long-awaited Pier will open in May

The mayor appeared to tease to his announcement with a tweet on Thursday. “In this time of COVID-19, one of the things I love about the new @StPetePier is that there are 26 acres to roam,” he said. “It’s an extension of our park system, not just a single building. Room to exercise, fish, play, enjoy public art, relax.”

When Kriseman announced the May opening date earlier this year, he said it was meant to coincide with the closing date of the city’s last Pier seven years ago. Back then, crowds descended on the attraction to say goodbye to the deteriorating 1970s-era inverted pyramid Pier that was being shuttered by then Mayor Bill Foster.

The intervening years saw St. Petersburg residents quarreling about whether the old Pier should be renovated or replaced and what any iteration should look like and offer. Some argued that St. Petersburg’s envied public waterfront didn’t need a pier at all.

Related: Race to complete St. Pete Pier by spring heading into final lap

Now Kriseman can’t wait to show off the 21st century version of the city’s cherished downtown waterfront tradition that dates back more than a century. Stretching 1,265 feet into Tampa Bay, the expanded Pier District will feature attractions such as a $1 million playground, public art by international artists, restaurants, a marketplace and a center that teaches about Tampa Bay’s ecosystem.

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Tweeting Thursday, Kriseman said in a marketing pitch, “I can’t wait for you to exPIERience it!”