A combination of big events will test the patience of those driving in downtown St. Paul today. The best advice: arrive early, leave late.
People heading into downtown St. Paul on Saturday might need just as much guts as the athletes who will be shooting down a four-story ice track that night.
A slew of big events, from the Red Bull Crashed Ice finals to a nearly sold-out Brad Paisley concert, promises to deluge the area with tens of thousands of visitors and their cars.
City officials are urging patrons to carpool, plan ahead, arrive early, leave late and most of all, exercise patience -- lots of it. "People should plan on a lot of traffic downtown and to be patient, but to definitely come down and enjoy themselves," said Jake Spano, St. Paul's marketing director.
The Crashed Ice finals at the Cathedral of St. Paul start at 7 p.m., with gates opening to the general public at 4 p.m. It is expected to draw the biggest crowd. The Paisley concert is expected to attract about 15,000 fans and starts at 7:30 p.m. Other events include the Sportsmen's Show at the RiverCentre, "A Prairie Home Companion" at the Fitzgerald Theater, Omnifest at the Science Museum and a show at the Ordway.
Spano said the city is working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to get freeway overhead signs to instruct drivers which exits to take to get to specific venues.
Downtown has about 28,000 public and private parking spaces. Street parking and meters will be enforced as regularly posted.
• Avoid: Do not park on residential streets at the top or bottom of Cathedral Hill. The areas are permit parking only. Violators will be ticketed and towed. Homeowners with permits are encouraged to park cars in their garages, but may still park on the street.
Many roads in the area will be closed.
• Crashed Ice Shuttle: Event organizers are running free shuttles from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. The shuttles will stop at five locations: 12th Street and John Ireland Boulevard, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cedar Avenue, Sherburne Avenue and Park Street, John Ireland Boulevard in front of the Department of Transportation building, and at John Ireland Boulevard and Marshall Avenue.
Free parking is available at lots by the State Capitol.
• Grand Avenue Shuttle: The Grand Avenue Business Association and five restaurants are sponsoring a free shuttle that will run nonstop from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Patrons who eat at the restaurants (The Lexington, Salut, Billy's on Grand and Dixie's) can leave their cars in the respective parking lots and use the shuttle. Customers are strongly urged to check with the individual restaurants first. Cars cannot be left overnight. (Subway is participating but did not respond to queries about its parking lot.)
The 50-person shuttle will stop at those five restaurants and drop off passengers at Selby Avenue and Nina Street.
• Downtown ramps and lots: There are about 72 ramps and lots in the area charging varying fees. For more information, contact individual ramps and lots as listed at www.smart-trips.org/parking.
• Sears: A limited number of parking spots will be available at Sears, 425 Rice St., at $15 a car, said Kim Freely, a spokeswoman with Sears Holding Corp.
For additional information and maps, go to www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=4785.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 • twitter: @ChaoStrib