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Rays Watch Parties Will Provide Boost For Sports Bars Across Tampa Bay

Fans at Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg watch a Tampa Bay Rays' playoff game in 2019.
Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill in St. Petersburg hosted fans during the 2019 American League Divisional Series. While fans will once again be welcome for the 2020 World Series, they'll have to follow coronavirus protocols.

As sports bars welcome patrons, fans can gather to watch the games at the St. Pete Pier and Tampa Convention Center.

The Tampa Bay Rays will be playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2020 World Series championship starting Tuesday — the first time in 12 years the Rays have played for Major League Baseball’s biggest prize.

But Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, will not be used. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire series will be played in Arlington, Texas.

Sports bars in St. Petersburg that surround Tropicana Field are making plans that will allow fans to come and watch together.

“[The playoffs not taking place at Tropicana Field] has affected [business] a lot, but we are just happy that we have sports back on TV,” said Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill.

According to Ferguson, revenue has dropped greatly compared to the last time the Rays were in the World Series.

“We’re at like 20 percent of what we could be at, but we have no control over it,” he said. “I’m just happy with what we have.”

While bars can operate at full capacity, coronavirus has hit them hard already.

“[Coronavirus] is affecting everybody and people want to be outside instead of sitting inside, so we are hoping the World Series will bring people out again,” said Ferguson.

Along with extra seating in the parking lot, Ferguson said they’re making other preparations for the games.

“We have 84 televisions and we have a DJ coming in,” he said.

The city of St. Petersburg and Visit St.Pete/Clearwater are hosting their own World Series watch party at the St. Pete Pier.

According to officials, all of the games will be shown on a giant outdoor screen where attendees will have their own individual socially-distanced pods.

The pods seat up to six guests each, and face masks are strongly encouraged. About 400 of the 8' x 8' pods will be set up at Spa Beach Park

“I think what we’re trying to do is trying to encourage celebrating together, but separately,” said Tara Tufo, the Senior Group Director at Paradise Advertising and Marketing. “We have seen out at the Pier that there is an ability to safely socially distance, but also take [the game] in and enjoy it.”

Gates will open at 6 p.m. each night and the spaces are on a first come, first seated basis. People can bring their own seats or blankets.

And the Tampa Bay Times reports the Tampa Convention Center Sail Plaza will host viewing parties Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (if necessary). A convention center spokeswoman says pre-game activities will start at 7 p.m. each night.

Seating with social distancing will be available to the first 600 guests each night. No outside food and beverages or coolers are allowed.

Courtney Holland is the WUSF radio news intern for the fall of 2020.
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