By Merle Rosenstein
Throughout the year St Pete/Clearwater hosts world-class sporting events. You can watch the action or get into the game. Your choice.
Visit St Petersburg/ClearwaterThe Professionals
St Pete/Clearwater is known as a favourite spring training spot for major league teams. The Toronto Blue Jays have trained in Dunedin since 1977 and the Philadelphia Phillies have held spring training in Clearwater since 1948. Visitors can catch players working out from mid-February until early April. The American League East Division champs, the Tampa Bay Rays hit home runs at Tropicana Field beginning April 1 each year, and the 2003 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle other NFL teams at Raymond James Stadium starting in September. Get your hockey fix at the St Pete Times Forum where the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning play through April.
Visit St Petersburg/Clearwater
The Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg rolls through town every spring with an action-packed, three-day event featuring the IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and the American Le Mans Series.
In October, 15-metre boats with F-16 jet canopies and 4,800-horsepower engines race 225 kilometres per hour during the Super Boat National Championship, a free event that starts at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.
The St Pete/Clearwater area boasts 50 golf courses including the famed Cooperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. With its long, narrow fairways twisting through piney woods, lurking lagoons and upsweeping bunkers, it’s no wonder the PGA selected this jewel to host the Florida swing of its tour. Each year the Transitions Championship is played here, and plenty of celebrities and cameras are on hand to catch all the action.
Another choice for avid golfers is the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club. Located on the waterfront in downtown St Petersburg, the Vinoy Hotel opened in 1925 and attracts Hollywood stars, great chefs and golf pros. The Vinoy Golf Club is three kilometres away on Snell Island. The Loews Don CeSar Hotel on the Gulf of Mexico at Pass-A-Grille Island has playing privileges for its guests at the nearby Isla del Sol Yacht and Country Club, a course with palm trees, water hazards and bunkers. The staff at the Don can also help golfing guests book tee times at any of the other fine courses in the St Pete/Clearwater area. To the north, the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club in Clearwater, designed by renowned golf architect Donald Ross, has small, crowned greens, long par 3s and subtle use of bunkers and water.
In St Pete/Clearwater, many resorts are equipped with tennis facilities and some offer lessons by pros. The Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club boasts a 12-court tennis complex. The Sheraton Sand Key Resort, overlooking the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, offers tennis, while the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, 32 kilometres northwest of Tampa International Airport, has tennis instruction on 11 Har-Tru courts.
For more information, go to www.VisitStPeteClearwater.com