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To welcome football season, seven great Tampa Bay sports bars

It's football season, and if you don't have game tickets, the next best thing is watching the game with like-minded fans at a raucous sports bar (maybe not as many Bucs games will be blacked out?). We've chosen seven gridiron greats in the Tampa Bay area — six joints for a touchdown, plus an extra point:

1. The Press Box

222 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 876-3528;

Plastered with sports memorabilia, jerseys and autographs, this dugout-like South Tampa mainstay is a haven for the sports uber-fan. A recent renovation added much-needed extra seating. You want evidence that this is a Tampa Bay institution? Every Monday at 6 p.m. during football season, a Buccaneers player pays a visit for an hour. The Bucs know where their super fans are watching Monday Night Football.

2. Gators Cafe & Saloon

12754 Kingfish Drive, Treasure Island; (727) 367-8951;

Add bikinis to the mix and you get one of the best sports bars in Tampa Bay (especially on Florida Gators game days) with more than 600 feet of unobstructed views of John's Pass and the boardwalk. Plenty of free parking. Gators — some locals call it Gators on the Pass — was renovated a few months ago with new floors and marble countertops. When the Gators play, there's lots of interaction, with games, giveaways and free shots for ladies at halftime if they line up behind the bar and break into the UF fight song.

3. Eddie's Bar and Grill

1283 Bayshore Blvd., Dunedin; (727) 734-2300;

This is one of the best bars to bring your kids along to (and yes, we know that sounds weird). It's got a whole game room with an incredible assortment, from Skee-Ball to race-car games, air hockey, pool and darts. Meanwhile, you can belly up to the expansive bar, which has more than 40 beers on tap, and watch the game.

4. Varsity Club in Clearwater

24091 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; (727) 726-6551;

A popular Tampa Bay area hangout for Packers fans for more than 20 years, this is a classic family sports bar with lots of video games, pool, a huge menu and long tables for big groups. With nearly 30 flat-screen TVs and a couple of giant pull-down wide screens, there's no missing the game here.

5. Champions Sports Bar

700 S Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 221-4900;

Located near the lobby of the posh Tampa Marriott Waterside, the bar's entrance doubles as a free-throw area, with loads of memorabilia. A tennis net separates the main dining area from a sunken level with pool, foosball and air hockey. Even the seating is themed in certain areas, with stadium-style folding seats protected by a guardrail, which may prompt you to look for a strolling peanut vendor. Several flat-screen TVs are positioned around seating areas, and there are massive projection screens throughout, including a colossal one behind the bar that makes the players larger than life. Prices are reasonable for a hotel bar, and it offers lots of drink deals on game days.

6. Ferg's

1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 822-4562;

Situated just a deep fly ball from Tropicana Field, Ferg's is the go-to watering hole before and after every Rays game. Owner Mark Ferguson has been there with the Rays since the beginning, and Ferg's is now a gathering spot for fans of all sports. It even hosts corn hole tournaments and other games.

And the extra point …

7. Lee Roy Selmon's Brandon

11310 Causeway Blvd.;

This place opens its doors Sunday, just in time for the first day of NFL games. It'll be new but a sure bet to rank among the bay area's top destinations for comfort food with a good view of the game on multiple TVs. In the land of chains — the SouthShore and Brandon area boasts 11 Beef 'O' Brady's, including the original Beefs on S Kings Avenue — this one feels more like a hometown business simply expanding. This will be the eighth restaurant in the chain started by the beloved football legend, who died in 2011. The restaurant is near the entrance to the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, also named for the Hall of Famer.

Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this report.

To welcome football season, seven great Tampa Bay sports bars 09/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 12:09pm]
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