St. Petersburg/Clearwater hosts its share of traditional spectator sports: You can catch the PGA Tour as it comes through town, follow your favorite Major League Baseball teams through spring training and stick around to cheer on the Tampa Bay Rays. You’ll find plenty of Minor League Baseball and collegiate ball too – even bowl games – but the flashiest showdowns involve speed: Indy Cars in downtown St. Pete and speed boats off Clearwater Beach. Whatever sport you choose, you’re in for a complete experience, as many of the events also feature festivals and fan days that add to the exciting atmosphere.
PGA Tampa Bay Golf Championship
Every March, you can watch PGA pros play Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club’s Copperhead Course during the Tampa Bay Championship, then see how your game compares: Test your skills on Copperhead’s double-dogleg 14th hole (its signature), or play one of Innisbrook’s other courses – its Island Course hosts the LPGA’s Legends Tour Open Championship each November.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg transforms the streets of downtown St. Pete into an Indy Car race track for four days between late March and early April. Drivers blur along straight-aways and negotiate 14 turns on the 1.8-mile course, which presents several close encounters for fans. Seek autographs between races in the Fan Village, secure a paddock pass or buy membership into the Firestone Grand Prix’s RV or yacht clubs (complete with VIP viewing and parties).
Major League Baseball
Supporters of the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees can follow their teams to the St. Pete/Clearwater area for Grapefruit League spring training in February. Through early April, the boys of summer work out and practice in and around town: the Phillies at Clearwater’s Bright House Field, the Blue Jays at Dunedin’s Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in neighboring Tampa.
If soccer is your game, catch the Tampa Bay Rowdies in North American Soccer League action April through September. The team’s home field, downtown St. Pete’s Al Lang Stadium, puts you close to the bay, and a game-day fan zone buzzes with amusements and refreshment vendors for fans of all ages.
Super Boat National Championship
In late September, spectators turn to the water to witness the Super Boat National Championship. The boats, equipped with F-16 jet canopies and 6,000-horsepower engines, race at speeds of up to 180 mph in the waters off USA Today's 2013 "Best Beach Town in Florida," Clearwater Beach. Races launch from Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach, so the pier, shoreline and beachfront hotels make great vantage points. Don’t miss the accompanying festival in nearby Coachman Park, where you can take photos with the boats and teams, enjoy a block party and listen to live entertainment.
Big East/Big Ten Baseball Challenge: Junior college and Division II tournaments lead up to Division I play in February at stadiums around St. Pete/Clearwater.
USF Bulls Tournament Softball Series: This February/March series that plays out at Clearwater’s Eddie C. Moore Complex features the largest NCAA softball tournament in the country.
Big East Baseball Championship: In May, Big East baseball players return to the area to compete for the conference title at Clearwater’s Bright House Field.
Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl: Held at Tropicana Field, this college football bowl game features the sixth pick from the Big East and the fourth pick from Conference USA, plus the requisite beach bashes and block parties.
Outback Bowl: Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium hosts this major college football bowl game between the third picks from the Big Ten and the SEC.
Other Area Spectator Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The franchise that won the 2003 Super Bowl brings gridiron action to Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay Downs: Try your luck with live and simulcast thoroughbred racing, poker and a golf practice facility.
Tampa Bay Storm: Arena football is also played inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum.