Park to open for stadium parking in st. Petersburg

TAMPA - Cars could outnumber trees at Al Lopez Park on game day. The City Council voted Thursday to open the park across from Raymond James Stadium to as many as 1,900 vehicles.

The cars could cover nearly all the open space at the park, blanketing fields of grass where soccer and softball is usually played.
The council also agreed to increase the cost of parking at the park for Buccaneers games from $10 to $15 per car and from $20 to $30 for vans and campers.

The lower rates will stay in place for other events at Raymond James Stadium, such as University of South Florida Bulls games.

The parking money will go to help fund improvements at the park, said Wayne Papy, deputy director of the city Parks and Recreation Department.

The higher fees could raise as much as $300,000 per season.

Right now, Al Lopez Park only makes about 450 paved parking spaces available to football fans.

The entire park used to be open until 1999, when Mayor Dick Greco made green space off limits. Greco thought the grass and greenery were taking a beating as about 2,000 cars crammed into the park on game day.

At the time, Greco's decision was a boost to the team, which was building a new parking lot west of Dale Mabry Highway.

Papy said the extra cars at Al Lopez Park should not damage the park, which is cleaned and repaired after every home game.
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