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Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could host 20,000 fans this month

Organizers for IndyCar’s championship race discussed their plan for the Oct. 25 event with the City Council on Thursday morning.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg actually plans to be able to welcome fans to the event later this month after its first attempt (in March) was called off because of the coronavirus shutdown.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg actually plans to be able to welcome fans to the event later this month after its first attempt (in March) was called off because of the coronavirus shutdown. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 1, 2020
Updated Oct. 1, 2020

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could host up to 20,000 spectators later this month, event organizers said Thursday.

The proposed attendance figure was submitted to the City Council before its meeting Thursday morning and discussed as members approved the resolution to hold the IndyCar Series' championship race on Oct. 25.

“We feel comfortable at this 20,000 level,” Grand Prix co-owner Kevin Savoree told the Council. “Would we like to have more fans? Absolutely. But I think for us, we have to walk before we run.”

This won’t be the first race in the COVID-19 era for Savoree’s company, Green Savoree Racing Promotions. It hosted an IndyCar doubleheader last month at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with no reported problems.

Related: How the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg became one of IndyCar’s crown jewels

Attendance at IndyCar events since the pandemic has been limited. Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course will be able to host 10,000 fans for this weekend’s doubleheader.

“What we have going for us is the massive, outdoor, open-air facility,” Savoree said.

The Grand Prix, held annually since 2005, has become one of IndyCar’s crown jewels. It was originally scheduled as the season opener in March but was called off after a chaotic few days — from full attendance to no fans at all to, finally, cars being pulled off the track during a practice session.

Works pack up after the news that the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, March 13, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The IndyCar Series season opener was one of the last holdouts.
Works pack up after the news that the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, March 13, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The IndyCar Series season opener was one of the last holdouts. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Savoree outlined some of the steps event organizers will be taking to keep the event as safe as possible. The Grand Prix will be able to conduct contact tracing, if necessary, and will have a quarantine area with rapid testing available if anyone feels ill on site. Spectators will have to answer health screening questions and have their temperature taken before entering. Social distancing and masks will be required, and hand washing/sanitizations stations will be “pervasive throughout the site.”

Also Thursday, IndyCar announced its 2021 schedule. The Grand Prix will return to its traditional spot as the season opener, kicking off the series' 17-race calendar on March 7.