Thousands pack downtown for Saturday events

Fans attend soccer match, Sharks game, Suns game, powerboat races

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - One of the most highly anticipated days of events in Jacksonville finally arrived Saturday.

The action at the sports complex began with the Suns and Sharks both playing at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Once those games were over, fans were able to just walk across the parking lot for the final game of preparation for the U.S. men's soccer team before they head off to the World Cup.

At 11 a.m. fans headed to Memorial Park in Riverside or along the river in San Marco to watch the P1 Powerboat races.

"It's all about having fun. We flipped last weekend, but we are here running fine," said Bill Kingery, one of the powerboat racers.

The marquee event of the day was the U.S. men's soccer match versus Nigeria. The team had been in town practicing all week, and Saturday night was the final time they took the field before their opening World Cup match in Brazil.

"We are excited to play in front of a great American crowd. And excited to finish off this send off series in a positive way," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said.

As of Friday morning, 45,000 tickets had already been sold, already passing the crowd of 44,428 that saw the men's national team beat Scotland at Everbank Field in 2012.

"More than half of the attendees are from outside of Jacksonville. We are doing a lot of stuff from that standpoint to sell the city," Joel Lamp of Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment said. "Not just as the city that we know and love because we live here, but also as a tourist destination."

Anticipating extra traffic, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office wanted drivers to be aware of some traffic patterns the police had laid out:

  • Before the soccer game, Bay Street will be two lanes eastbound and two lanes westbound
  • After the game, Gator Bowl Boulevard at Festival Way will be one-way northbound, starting at 7 p.m.
  • Also starting at 7, Bay Street and Gator Bowl Boulevard starting at Lot J will be one way westbound

The Jacksonville Sharks game began at 3 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Arena. JSO said the best parking places for that event were the Arena parking garages or Lots J, X or Z.

The Suns played at 3:05 p.m. at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, and JSO recommended fans park in Lots P or X.

The U.S. national soccer team faced off with Nigeria in a game at EverBank Field at 6 p.m. There was a soccer festival at EverBank from 3 to 6 p.m. JSO recommended the Sports Complex parking area for the soccer game, and fans were encouraged to arrive early because of the overlapping events in the area.

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