Closed now, nearly empty, Pier is filled with memories - FOX 13 News

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Closed now, nearly empty, Pier is filled with memories

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From FOX 13's Jeremy Campbell: Thousands come for one last visit

All day Friday, people came to say goodbye, and everything was a last chance -- from the trolley rides down the Pier to shopping.

And it was a sell-out day for many gift shops.

Prices were slashed down -- way down -- to clear out the shelves.

Restaurants saw a surge, and the same thing happened. Food sold out.

All because of the deluge of people who grew up with the Pier, and wanted one last night.

In fact, a lucky few took a piece home with them. We ran across one crowd at Johnny Reno's, who removed some of the bricks from the walkway.

The restaurateur signed and dated copies, a physical memento, to remember so many memories.

From Steve Nichols: Over a century, the Pier evolves

St. Petersburg's Piers date back more than a hundred years. The first few wooden structures all fell victim to storms.

The 1920's Million Dollar Pier was the first concrete and steel structure.

It was an activity center that, by the 1950s, was fostering an image St. Pete did not want.

So it was bye-bye to senior citizen sing-a-longs and card games, and hello to "The Jetsons" look -- an inverted pyramid.

The first version had little buildings around the pyramid, and virtually no first floor.

That changed in the late 1980s with a $13 million renovation that actually stayed somewhat under the radar.

Why?

Because that's when the community was divided about the building of Tropicana Field. While everyone focused and fought over the $90 million baseball stadium, the Pier was re-born.

And they thought the life span of it would be indefinite. In a sense, they were right: to this day, the inverted pyramid is structurally sound.

It is the "approach" -- the 1926 bridge going out to the pyramid -- that is falling apart.

From Stef DiPietrantonio: The view from the top

They are some of the best views of Tampa Bay: At the top of the Pier, people flocked to take pictures of the scene that unfolds below and beyond.

It's a spectacular spot, and probably one of the most popular destinations for tourists and locals today.

Everyone tried to get their last few pics of this view from the railing that, in a matter of months, will be taken down.

One floor below that railing, there were hundreds of reservations at Richard Gonzmart's Columbia restaurant.

From the wedding receptions, to proms, to special occasions, Gonzmart takes pride that so many visitors and locals have made the restaurant their destination over the last 40 years.

From Ken Suarez: Yearly pilgrimages -- one with snow

The St. Petersburg Pier may be closing, but fond memories of it are alive and well in the minds of many people who have enjoyed it over the last 40 years.

Carolyn Palmer has taken dozens of her foreign exchange students there.

"When they're standing at the end of the Pier and there is the water, and the beauty of the area, they're just amazed how beautiful it is out there. So it's a great place to take them," she said. "And it's free!"

Andrea Goodson, an art teacher at Lakeland High School, makes a yearly pilgrimage to the Pier for her family reunion -- an event that been going on for 40 years.

Relatives come from all over the country, and on day three, they all go to the Pier for a family picture. It is taken in the same exact spot year in and year out.

"We had some who started off as infants, who are now college age or beyond," she said. Now, "there are new infants in there."

One woman told us she had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Pier. She and her husband were eating their first meal together as a married couple, and it snowed.

Now that's a memory of the Pier that's hard to beat.


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