Firestone Grand Prix takes over St. Petersburg

Posted at 5:55 PM, Mar 11, 2016
Friday was the first full day of practice for drivers in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  
People in the downtown area couldn't escape the loud noises of race cars.  
They also couldn't escape the huge police presence put on by the St. Petersburg Police Department.  Officers were positioned at nearly every street corner.
Assistant Chief Jim Previtera said there is a heightened patrol presence.  He also said there are bag screenings at all of the entrances.
"It's the same thing you'll see at Raymond James Stadium or at Tropicana Field and it's really indicative of any major sporting event the type of security you can expect," said Previtera.
Police are also stressing to residents to text any suspicious activity to "tip411."
Spectators like Chuck Morse don't mind seeing the added security.
"It's the day of terrorists and they've pushed us to this point and as long as we keep safe," said Morse.
Saturday afternoon is the first full day of racing.  Officers hope spectators stay have an enjoyable time while staying vigilant.
"There is no tip that we will dismiss said," said Previtera.
City leaders said the event will have a $48-million economic impact.  Courigan's manager Danny Lentsch said his staff is all hands on deck this weekend.
"People are starting to figure out where we are at, we are getting returning fans this year from last year," said Lentsch.