BELLEAIR BLUFFS — As neighboring Belleair gets ready to host the largest event in the area’s history, Belleair Bluffs city officials at their Feb. 10 commission meeting took steps to address concerns arising from the LPGA tournament coming to the Pelican Golf Club in three months.
City Administrator Debra Sullivan said most of her concerns are with public safety, traffic flow and parking. She said she was at a recent meeting of the Ladies Professional Golf Association ad hoc committee and marketing group that is planning the event, which she said was “wonderful to work with.”
“I expressed my concern for parking, and the overflow of traffic on Indian Rocks Road and West Bay Drive including the Belleair Causeway Bridge. Public safety is an extremely concerning issue,” said Sullivan.
She also learned at the meeting that there are critical planning elements related to the event that had yet to be finished. Needed ordinances have not been passed by the Belleair Town Commission, and the under-construction clubhouse and other structures at the Pelican Golf Club are not done.
But, “All is on schedule,” Sullivan said they were told. The event will be held May 11 through May 17.
This is the first year of a three-year contract for the LPGA tournament. “This year is a big learning experience,” Sullivan said, “and there are some challenges.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine criticized what he said was a lack of preparation for the event. “This is ill-planned and ill-prepared,” he said, “but there is a lot of opportunity in it, and the whole community could benefit.”
“The attitude of Belleair Bluffs is, let’s support it and make it the best thing possible,” Arbutine said.
Sullivan also said, “The owner of the (golf course) property did this tournament in the middle of a residential area. This is not something we would have allowed in our city. It is not fit for the area around it.”
Sullivan discussed the steps Belleair Bluffs is taking to deal with the influx of people for the event.
Movement of people will be a major issue, Sullivan said. About 50,000 people over a five-day period are expected. That includes not just spectators, but volunteers, vendors, TV crews, and groundskeepers, along with the golfers.
The tournament is also being held during Mother’s Day week, Sullivan said, which is the second busiest holiday of the year.
“We want to keep the people in the main corridors (Indian Rocks Road and West Bay Drive) and out of the residential areas,” Sullivan said.
To accomplish that, she said the city plans to close residential street parking on Renatta Drive, Belmar Drive, Southwind Drive, Pinehurst Avenue, Indian Avenue, Dolphin Drive and North Overbrook.
Parking in the business areas will need the permission of the property owner. The businesses want movement of cars, not parked cars sitting all day while people go to the event, Sullivan said.
She said the planners “have contracts with Uber and Lyft, and they have people-movers” to bring people in from remote sites.
“No Parking” signs will be displayed where needed.
Commissioner Taylour Shimkus said she likes the idea of closing residential streets to parking during the tournament.
“We’re all concerned,” she said. “If you can get that done, with no parking on the streets you mentioned, I think the residents would be happy. That’s what I’m hearing.”
Despite the concerns, Arbutine said he sees a lot of potential benefits coming from the LPGA tournament.
“If we can manage the traffic and enhance our business corridor, I think it will be a really beneficial event, not only for Belleair Bluffs, but for Largo and the beaches, the entire area,” he said.