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City: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be in early March 2016

Next year’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will start earlier. Some hotels prefer the change so it won’t bump up against Easter.
Published Aug. 4, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials confirmed rumors Monday that next year's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place in early March, a couple of weeks sooner than it has in past years.

City spokesman Ben Kirby said the IndyCar race, which snakes through downtown streets and along the waterfront, will happen the weekend of March 11-13.

Those dates were floated a couple of weeks ago by Motosports Travel, a website that books accommodations for racing events. That prompted a flurry of talk among locals and business owners. Some hotels said they actually preferred the earlier date because that means it won't bump up against Easter, which will be on March 27 in 2016.

Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development, said those dates come from promoter Green Savoree Racing. IndyCar has not confirmed anything directly to the city.

"It's a week or two earlier than we've had it in the last two, three years," Ballestra said. "But it doesn't matter. We'll work close with all our partners. We're looking forward to it. This is a special race."

It's unclear how the race on the earlier dates could affect places like the Salvador Dalí Museum, which sits inside the race course and has had conflicts in the past with the event.

"There's always something going on every week in St. Petersburg," Kirby said. "We've got to find balance sometimes."

Kirby said Mayor Rick Kriseman has directed his staff to reach out to organizations like the waterfront Dalí and the Mahaffey Theater to make sure everyone knows about the date change.

"What the mayor intends to do is be positive and be proactive. He will set meetings with all those folks," Kirby said.

Contact Kameel Stanley at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes.

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