Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Is the Grand Prix really St. Petersburg's Super Bowl?

7:53 AM, Mar 25, 2011   |    comments
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The green flag flies at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in this photo provided by the IndyCar series.

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Does the Grand Prix bring in a Super Bowl's worth of tourists like some folks say? We checked the numbers.

It's a big deal. Folks who follow IndyCar racing will tell you that about this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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Wednesday on 10 News, Mayor Bill Foster tried to put it a different way. "This is our Super Bowl," he said.

Oh really? Let's look at the numbers.

Tampa's Super Bowl in 2009 brought an estimated 100,000 out-of-towners to the area.

The Grand Prix has drawn 150,000 to 160,000 thousand fans in each of the past two years -- and that many or more are expected this year.

So, as long as one-quarter of Grand Prix fans came from out of town, the race's tourist total since 2009 would beat the Super Bowl.

There have been some bumps on this road to success.

The first Grand Prix here ran from 1985-1990 on a slightly different bayfront course. At one point, organizers even laid out the track down the Pier and back.

Attendance dropped off over the years, and the race dried up.

The race was reincarnated in 1996 and 1997 on a square course around the ThunderDome -- what's now Tropicana Field. Drivers despised the track.

On the rough road, cars would go airborne at more than 150 miles an hour. Drivers head their heads on the roofs of their cars. The hard-to-drive race lasted just two years.

Finally, in 2003, back on the bayfront course, the race found lasting success.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has risen to be the opening race of the IndyCar series and one of its premier events.

Connect with 10 News multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm
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Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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