New St. Pete Pier welcomes thousands of visitors on opening night

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The coronavirus pandemic did not stop about five thousand people from visiting the new $92 million St. Petersburg Pier during Monday night’s grand opening.

“There is a cruel irony in opening a place meant to bring people together during a global pandemic that largely requires people to stay apart,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said at a ceremony before the first visitors entered the new 26-acre waterfront district.

St. Pete residents told 8 On Your Side the new pier, which opens more than seven years after the previous one shut down, was worth the wait.

“I think its cool there’s a lot of more attractions for the little kids,” St. Pete native Iyman Scot said.

The new pier distract features a playground, splashpad and several restaurants.

“As a mother and a resident of St. Petersburg, I am so excited for the future of St. Pete,” city council member Brandi Gabbard said. “This is gonna be a generational place for people to be able to bring there children.”

St. Pete’s State Senator Darryl Rouson had a message for those who are a higher risk of illness from the coronavirus.

“Those who do not need to be out,” Rouson said, “should not come out.”

In some areas, it is more difficult to keep a six foot distance from others, like the line by the pier head where at the top visitors can check out this view of the skyline.

“We’re gonna ask for a lot of responsibility from everybody to make sure we stay safe,” Gabbard said.

Despite city officials urging everyone to wear a face covering, it was not universal on opening night.

“It makes sense to mask up in this resurgence of the virus,” Rouson said.

After 8:30 p.m., some Black Lives Matter protesters who have been demonstrating in the streets of St. Pete following the death of George Floyd marched down the pier chanting “no justice, no pier.”

Over the years, 8 On Your Side has heard the concerns about the cost and construction delays.

“Those are understandable concerns,” Gabbard said, “but I would just say that we are here today, its time to celebrate, its time to move forward and its time to launch our new pier.”

To reserve a ticket, visit the Pier’s website and select a day and time.

The daily number of tickets spread out during the day this week is being capped at 10,000.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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