Life in Clearwater
I have lived in Clearwater, Florida, the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, as a full-time resident for three years now. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that everything about this place is completely different each March thanks to the Phils and their fans.
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The biggest difference that locals notice at this time of year? The traffic! The main east to west thoroughfare is Gulf to Bay Boulevard. Gulf to Bay is difficult to drive most of the year ,but is beyond miserable in March. Gulf to Bay, also known as ’60’, runs 8 miles from the Courtney Campbell Causeway over Tampa Bay in the east to the Gulf of Mexico in the west.
Ten months out of the year, it is exceptionally busy, prone to accidents, and during rush hour it can back up partway across the causeway (heading west). You can deal with it, as most locals do, by simply avoiding it during rush hour. During Spring Training, however, it’s like that constantly. Most locals just avoid it altogether.
The same sort of thing happens with the main north to south route, Highway 19, only with the added fun of endless construction.
For the GPS-dependent, and that is many visitors, it’s even tougher driving. Our GPS will take you on the most direct routes, which of course are also the most congested.
The advantage for residents and some of the more frequent visitors is that we know all of the side streets and alternate routes, and that makes all the difference. We know six different ways to get to almost anywhere, and we use them!
The key is to remember that, unlike the hilly north, the roads here in flat Florida are on a grid system. It’s very easy to find alternate routes that parallel the main roads which the tourists are using.
For my husband and I, the biggest change during Spring Training is that we get to spend time at the Carpenter Complex and Bright House Field. Traffic in that area usually isn’t bad at all. However, when there is a game, it’s very congested.
For Clearwater Threshers (the Phillies ‘High-A’ minor league affiliates) games, we do not pay for parking, since it is included for season ticket holders. For Spring Training games, parking is $10 in the lots, or you can park for $5 at the Disc Golf Course just north of the Carpenter Complex. On days when the Phillies are on the road, parking is free.
After the six weeks of Spring Training, after the Philadelphia Phillies crowds are gone, the rest of the year is totally different. None of it matters to me: with the crowds, without the crowds, there’s no where else I’d rather live.