St. Pete’s biggest sports bar is a piece of the city’s history (and owns several actual pieces of St. Pete history), and this Wednesday, Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill celebrates its 30th anniversary. The beloved sports bar is throwing an all-day party on Wednesday, November 23, titled “Against All Odds,” starting at 11 am and running late into the night, complete with ‘90s drink specials
The growth of Ferg’s over the years reflects the changing nature of the city in many ways. Mark Ferguson opened his namesake sports bar in 1992 in a converted gas station, located in an area that had little to offer at the time beyond cheap land prices. In the thirty years since, the small Sunoco-sized bar and grill has grown into a sprawling complex along Central Avenue complete with more than a dozen bars, a dog park, axe throwing, and daily crowds sometimes in excess of 30,000.
Ferg’s initial gamble paid off big when the Tampa Bay Rays began play at Tropicana Field in 1998, making Ferg’s the doorstep to any Rays game day. CNN once named Ferg’s as one of the country’s 101 best sports bars, and certainly much of that success has been driven by their baseball-playing neighbors. The sports bar says that daily crowds regularly exceed 17,000 when the Rays play at home, and they’ve seen as many as 30,000 customers in a single day when the Rays host World Series games.
It’s fitting that Ferg himself has made his St. Pete success story the home of many pieces of St. Pete and Tampa Bay history, often to the detriment of his pocketbook. In addition to repurposed gym floors from Lakewood High School, the list of relics includes seats from the old Bayfront Center; materials from All Children’s Hospital, Derby Lane Dog Track, and city bus stops; gas pumps, and the iconic (and giant) World Liquors spinning globe. He even recently added a retired Gasparilla pirate ship.
The anniversary party’s title, Against All Odds, is certainly an appropriate one for the St. Pete institution, and again representative of the way the city has grown in the three decades since it opened. Ferg was a St. Pete native, but beyond a love for the city, he openly admits he had no business opening a bar and restaurant. He was a teacher in Pinellas County schools, but he had a dream, and with the help of friends and family, he brought that dream to life.
Though even in his most optimistic moments, Ferg likely never envisioned the sprawling sports bar paradise his business would grow into. So on Wednesday, he and thousands of his closest friends will raise a glass (or can) to an incredible run that isn’t ending any time soon.
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