MANATEE -- Between Palmetto and Bradenton, 10,000 parking spaces have been identified for Saturday's Bradenton Area River Regatta. The 2015 inaugural event drew an estimated 80,000 people -- and predictions for Saturday's festivities are for the same numbers of fans, if not more, to make their way to the Manatee River for boat races and related events.
Traffic and parking were not an issue last year as organizers found that people came and went throughout the day. If more people come this year and decide to stay for multiple events, there are things people can do to help ease congestion.
"Be willing to walk or ride your bike to the outskirts of the event if you live close enough," said Bradenton Public Works Director Claude Tankersley. "On the Bradenton side, SunRide Pedicabs will be operating and will transport people from the public parking areas to Old Main Street. The pedicabs can carry anywhere from two to six riders, and the drivers operate on tips. Don't try to ride your bike through the event, the crowds will be too tight."
Last year, neighborhood groups used the MCAT or SCAT bus systems, both of which have scheduled stops within a close distance of the event.
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"Some of those riders from last year had never been on our transit system before and were delighted with how easy and stress-free it was to take the bus to and from the event," Tankersley said.
If you do have to drive, officials are recommending carpools. There will be no parking shuttle service available in Palmetto, but most of the available parking is near downtown, said Palmetto Public Works Director Allen Tusing.
"We'll have all the available parking as we would for any other major event," said Tusing, "and have posted signage to ensure everyone coming into town will know where to turn off for that parking."
All of the Bradenton city lots are available for free parking. Like last year, several private lots will be open with various non-profits on site to collect fees as fund-raisers.
"Our experience last year was that there was a lot of turnover," said Tankersley. "Someone may come for the Saint Stephen's 5K run in the morning, leave and then come back for the concert or fireworks. This constant turnover meant that many of the lots, both public and private, had at least a few spaces available all day long."
Handicapped parking will be available in the handicap spaces in both the public and private lots. Officials recommend anyone who has limited mobility to bring their wheelchairs, as foot movement may prove too difficult.
Convenient parking in Palmetto includes Sutton and Lamb parks. Motorists entering the city are asked to pay close attention to the signs directing them to other parking areas.
In Bradenton, the city lots open to the public for free include:
City hall parking lot.
County administration parking garage (10th Street West between Fourth Avenue West and Manatee Avenue West).
Judicial center parking garage.
City lot at Third Street West and U.S. 301 (in front of the YachtSea Grill).
City lot on 13th Street West, between Third and Fourth avenues west.
City lot on Ninth Avenue West at 15th Street West.
In Palmetto, Eighth Avenue West north to Seventh Street West will shut down at the same time as the Green Bridge at 4 a.m. Saturday. Tusing said it will be open to local traffic and those wishing to patronize businesses south of Seventh Street, but will not be open to traffic and parking.
"Most likely, the farthest they will be allowed to go is Third Street," said Tusing.
In Bradenton, besides the Green Bridge, the city will shut down the following roads:
Ninth Street West, from the Green Bridge to Manatee Avenue West.
Old Main Street, from Barcarrota Boulevard to Manatee Avenue West.
Third Avenue West, from First Street to Ninth Street West will be turned into a one-way only for eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic will be prohibited.
Sixth Avenue West at Ninth Street West will not allow left turns.
Ninth Street West at Manatee Avenue West, left turns only.
All street closures are for the duration of the event.
Things to remember
Tankersley said several people became dehydrated at last year's regatta. His advice coming to the event is to know your own limits.
"The excitement of the event, combined with our normally beautiful Florida weather, led some people to forget to drink water, sit or seek shade," he said. "Bring sunscreen. ... Just because it's cool doesn't mean you can't get sunburned or overheated. Drink plenty of fluids, wear a hat, bring a windbreaker -- especially if you plan on watching the races from the bridge."
Saturday's forecast calls for a cloudy day with highs in the 70s ,with winds up to 14 mph out of the northeast.
"So plan ahead for both warm and cool conditions," said Tankersley.
Do not bring alcohol, tents, grills, large coolers, umbrellas, lounge chairs, folding tables, large banners and flags. Tankersley said a good rule to follow is that if it blocks or irritates fellow spectators, don't bring it. No one will be allowed to "reserve" space for friends or family. It is a first-come, first-served event.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.