Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill
It might seem that the owner of Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, Mark Ferguson, has it made in the shade—the shade of Tropicana Field, that is. The home of the Tampa Bay Rays towers across the street, forever funneling swarms of fans through the bar’s doors and hiding it from hungry giants. But his winding up in a sports bar’s ideal location was no accident, and it certainly didn't come easy. Lane DeGregory chronicled the bar's history in a 2008 feature in the Tampa Bay Times, noting that it took the former middle-school gym coach "17 years, countless kegs, three pro sports teams and a decade of sorry baseball to build his empire." While the stadium sat empty, Ferguson sponsored local softball, flag-football, and basketball leagues in the rundown downtown area once known as the “Gas Plant District." Luckily for Ferguson, it wasn't long until Tropicana Field filled with cheers for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Storm, and, eventually, Rays.
What started in 1992 as a concrete-block space with 75 seats has since grown into a two-story establishment whose sprawling indoor and outdoor seating areas encompass almost two city blocks. Like the growth of the business, the bar and grill's building materials reflect input from the surrounding community: the wood flooring was compiled from area gymnasiums, and the walls are paneled with hardwood from the old All Children's Hospital.
Ferguson continues to fuel his success with more than 70 TVs, classic bar eats, and a calendar filled with live-music and trivia nights. In addition to fans, the restaurant has been known to serve renowned politicians and—according to the Tampa Bay Times—Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Perhaps the duo chose the eatery for its paparazzi-curbing underground tunnel, which leads beneath 1st Avenue South to the stadium.